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What Oklahoma athletes and Wes Lunt's transfer have in common

Stephanie Kuzydym Modified: June 19, 2013 at 11:35 am •  Published: June 19, 2013
James Patton left Oklahoma to take a job at Indiana within five days of the 2013 National Signing Day (Photo courtesy of IU Athletics)
James Patton left Oklahoma to take a job at Indiana within five days of the 2013 National Signing Day (Photo courtesy of IU Athletics)

Give you three words that will make you smile when they actually should make some high school athletes pause and think.

1. National 2. Signing 3. Day.

It’s a national holiday that comes every year that isn’t actually seen in the government’s eyes as a national holiday. But college football fans and high school players across the nation take the day to sit in a gym or watching their Twitter feed fill with more names. National Signing Day is a day known for a bunch of football players signing their national letter of intent, a binding letter between a high school athlete and a school that is a member of the NCAA. And what’s more American that college football?

So every year on the first Wednesday in February, gentleman ink their name and don a hat. Big names and small.

Wes Lunt did it. Eddie Vanderdoes did it. Thousands of student athletes have signed that NLI. But did you know they don’t have to?

There are two things a player must sign: an athletics-aid agreement and the NLI.

That NLI isn’t valid unless a player signs an athletics-aid agreement, which in non-NCAA terms means a scholarship offer.

The NLI signs you to that school, not that coach. Signing the NLI requires you to at least one full academic year (not just one season) with the university.

Per National Collegiate Scouting Association Athletic Recruiting’s blog:

Am I required to sign a National Letter of Intent?
No, but many student-athletes sign a National Letter of Intent because they want to create certainty in the recruiting process.  By signing, you receive a financial aid award (including an athletics scholarship) for the upcoming academic year, provided you are admitted to the institution and eligible for an athletic scholarship under NCAA rules.

Gina Mizell and Jason Kersey wrote all about transfers earlier this week,but what do Wes Lunt and Drew Allen’s transfers have to do with Oklahoma (besides that Allen is a former Oklahoma backup quarterback)?

They signed the NLI. This week, Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples made a case against the Letter of Intent.

“Sign on the dotted line, and you might just lose a year of eligibility,” Staples wrote in the magazine version of the article (what appears online is different).

As Staples writes, it’s not possible for everyone not to sign their NLI. If you’re a big name player, though, that’s who Staples made a case to wait.

“To be clear: A recruit with only a few offers should sign an NLI; he has no leverage not to,” Staples wrote. “But you, the best of the best, are likely facing dozens of offers. And once you set foot on campus, your school and the NCAA will own your likeness and eligibility. Don’t surrender your leverage until you absolutely must.”

In it, Staples talks about how signing the NLI is binding to a student, but after most sign, coaches end up leaving. That’s, again, where Oklahoma plays in to NLIs.

“It is no accident,” Staples wrote, “that universities routinely jettison assistant within a week of national singing day — Oklahoma alone fired three this year — or that coaches often leave for greener pastures right around that time. In 2012, New Mexico defensive coordinator Ron West left for Arizona State just after signing day; then, on Feb. 14 of this year, a week after his recruits were committed, he moved on again, to North Carolina. Were his recruits happy? Of course not. But because they’d signed the NLI they were stuck.

“You don’t have to get stuck. Follow the lead of some of the nation’s top basketball recruits by not singing the NLI, instead inking only the athletics-aid agreement. Then, when your team fires the assistant who reeled you in — or he walks away on his own — the school risks losing you too.”


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