Most athletes (and their families) are thrilled to end the recruiting process and accept a guaranteed (or so they are led to believe) 1-year athletic scholarship.
College sports can be great in many ways, but the NLI shows just how lopsided the relationship between athlete and institution really is.
There at least 10 reasons why the NLI sucks. Reading the NLI and listening to the decades-old spin from the NCAA community, it reminds me of the fraternity initiation (er, whipping) from Animal House. "Thank you, sir! May I have another?"
1) It totally misrepresents reality
The NLI stipulates that athletes are signing with school, not athletic program, even if the actual recruiting process reflects the opposite. Yes, we want athletes to factor the school into their decisions, but every dollar—or thousand—an athletic department invests to sign a player signals just the opposite. Kentucky coach John Calipari, who is one of the few coaches willing to put his money where his mouth is (more on that later), once said: "Kids come and go to programs in most cases because of the coach. We can say that's not the case and they're supposed to sign at the school, but let's be real. They want to play for the coach."
2) Yeah, right the NLI is a "voluntary"
Technically, the NLI is a voluntary program. In 2007, the NCAA's Susan Peal, the director of the NLI, told Seth Davis: "Parents call me all the time [with questions], and I tell them hey, you don't have to sign the NLI. The coach will give you an athletics aid agreement, which has to accompany the NLI anyway. Now, will institutions let you do that? Maybe not, but it's worth asking the question." Wishful thinking.
3) "Know the rules...before you sign"
The first thing you see on the NLI website is that statement, which is like telling taxpayers, "Learn the IRS tax code." Even if you know everything, you still have pay taxes. For athletes and their families, even if they know the NLI and NCAA rules cold, almost every recruit will still sign the dadgum thing. The most galling part of the NLI website is that it lists the "many advantages to both prospective student-athletes and participating educational institution." If you say something enough times, you start to believe it. And so do others.