National Signing Day 2011: Letter Of Intent Frequently Asked Questions

Wednesday marks the opening of the late signing period and is what we affectionately refer to as national signing day. Recruits across the country will sign Letters of Intent, binding themselves to whichever school they so choose. While the verbal commitments many recruits give throughout the year are nice, they mean nothing until a letter arrives in the fax machine of its destination during the signing period.

But what is this Letter of Intent that's so valued in the college football world? What does it mean, look like and why is it such a big deal? Read on for everything you ever wanted to know about Letters of Intent.

What is a Letter of Intent? Simply put, it's a binding agreement between a recruit and school, ending the recruitment process. When the school receives the letter, the player becomes off-limits to others, and is bound to the school for the next four years. A Letter of Intent is coupled with a financial aid agreement, guaranteeing a scholarship awaits the recruit when they step on campus.

What does this mythical beast look like? If you're not among the small percentage of athletes that has secured a Division I scholarship, you probably have no idea what a Letter of Intent looks like. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, now you do. Amazing, isn't it?

Can I sign a letter and fax it to my favorite school? No. No you may not. In order for the letter to be valid, the college in question must place the recruit on its Institutional Request List, certifying it has interest in the recruit. The athletic director must also sign the Letter of Intent to make it official. Besides, you don't want to end up like this guy.

How does one go through the process of signing a Letter of Intent? This may seem like a dumb question, but it's not. If the recruit is under the age of 18, two signatures are needed: one by the recruit and one by his parent or guardian. The letter must then be faxed to the corresponding college, where the school officially accepts it by signing the letter themselves.

Why a fax machine? Can't the NCAA get with the times? Oddly enough, they have. With snowy weather closing schools across the country on Wednesday, an exception I was never aware of came to light. Players can, in fact, take camera phone pictures of their letter and email it to the school they're signing with. The picture must show the letter clearly and must also be accompanied by a picture of the financial aid agreement that's typically faxed with the LOI.

Does a player have to sign a Letter of Intent? Contrary to popular belief, recruits don't have to sign at all. Signing the letter, however, guarantees a recruit a scholarship for the next year, should they meet the terms of the agreement. In college basketball, we've seen some of the top recruits opt to not sign an LOI, instead signing a financial aid agreement that gives the recruit more power -- allowing them to break the agreement any time before they step on campus.

Does it guarantee a four-year scholarship? A Letter of Intent only guarantees financial aid for one year, though the letter itself binds an athlete to an institution for four years. The financial aid offer is a separate document to be signed in conjunction with the LOI. In the event the scholarship is not renewed, however, the player must be released from their binding agreement.

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