Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News
Thursday, Oct. 1, 2009 - 3:28 p.m. ET
When basketball star Xavier Henry signed a letter of intent last fall to play for the University of Memphis, his agreement included an addendum stating the university would release him from that obligation if John Calipari were no longer the Tigers' coach.
Such deals now out of bounds in college sports.
The National Letter of Intent Policy and Review Committee sent a memo to member schools Thursday announcing that "institutions should be aware they are prohibited from establishing any additional conditions associated with the NLI agreement in advance of a prospective student-athlete signing the NLI."
A copy of the memo was provided to Sporting News by a Division I basketball coach.
The memo declares that if any institution or its employees "offer additional conditions, the prospective student-athletes NLI is subject to being declared null and void along with possible institutional penalties." Susan Peal of the NLI office said possible punishments range from a letter of admonishment to expulsion from the National Letter of Intent program.
The National Letter of Intent program is a voluntary system run by the Collegiate Commissioners Association out of offices at the NCAA in Indianapolis. It was established so prospects can end the recruiting process by making a formal, signed commitment to a university. Schools benefit by gaining some certainty regarding which athletes will be entering their programs.
The concept of an addendum promising an NLI release had become more popular recently, as releases from the letter became easier to obtain. It escalated last year, with top-10 prospect DeMarcus Cousins refusing to sign at UAB because the school would not agree to release him if coach Mike Davis were to leave, and when Henry and guard Nolan Dennis abandoned their signed letters with Memphis after Calipari departed for Kentucky.
The letter of intent includes clauses mandating eligibility penalties for those athletes who do not spend at least one academic year at the school where they sign, but the past decade has seen more players gain releases when circumstances change – such as a coach being fired or taking another job.
The NLI committee's memo said an athlete who wants to be released from a signed letter will need to follow the standard procedures of submitting a request form.