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Verbal Offers vs. National Letter of Intent

Verbal Offers vs. National Letter of Intent

Many athletes are unaware verbal commitments are non-binding and how it's different from signing the National Letter of Intent.

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As you navigate the recruiting process, remember that “verbal offers” and “verbal commitments” are very exciting, but they are not guaranteed commitments. Remember, your goal should be signing a National Letter of Intent (NLI), which marks your official, and binding commitment to a program.

Here, we will talk about navigating verbal offers and verbal commitments, as well as what you must do to ensure you have a roster spot.

What is a Verbal Offer? 

A verbal offer is when a college coach offers a prospective student-athlete and their family an athletic scholarship through a conversation. A verbal offer is not binding, as nothing is signed. This is because it is an offer from the coach and not through the athletic department. Consider a verbal offer as an agreement until you sign the National Letter of Intent, which provides formal documentation. The coach or the prospective student-athlete can withdraw from this agreement at any time.

What is a Verbal Commitment?

A verbal commitment is when a student-athlete verbally agrees to attend a school. The difference between a verbal commitment and a verbal offer is that with a verbal commitment, the student-athlete is saying to the coaching staff that they plan to attend their school. A verbal commitment is not a binding agreement, as nothing is officially signed by either the student-athlete or the coach. 

Like a verbal offer, the college coach or student-athlete can end this commitment. 

When Would I Receive a Verbal Offer?

Most student-athletes will receive a verbal offer towards the end of their recruiting process. Verbal offers can happen over the phone with a coach or when you are on an official or unofficial visit. 

If a college coach offers you a position on the spot and you are not sure if you are ready to commit verbally just yet, you can always ask the coach when you need to provide your answer. Or, to get even more time, you can request an academic or financial pre-read.  

An academic pre-read is when a coach brings your transcript, test scores, etc, to the admissions office to see if you will be accepted. This process can take a few days and will give you time to decide. 

A financial pre-read is when your family shares financial documents with the coach to bring to the Office of Financial Aid to determine how much your family will be expected to pay for tuition. From there, the Office of Financial Aid will provide a document for your family to know what they will be expected to pay for. We provide guidance here on how to interpret this document.

How Do I Accept a Verbal Offer and Verbally Commit?

If a coach gives you a verbal offer in person or over the phone, and you have decided this program is the best fit for you, you should accept their offer! Remember, this is not binding; however, you should only accept a verbal offer from a school that you intend to attend. It is not a great look to be accepting multiple verbal offers. 

After you verbally commit, it’ll be important you continue to keep in touch with the coaching staff. Contact the coaching staff about academic or athletic updates or when you apply to their college. If you verbally commit to a program, the coaching staff will usually want you to apply to the school as early as possible.

If I Verbally Commit, Am I Guaranteed an Athletic Scholarship?

No. A verbal commitment does not guarantee an athletic scholarship. It's merely an agreement between the coaching staff and the student-athlete and is not binding with the athletic department. The availability of athletic scholarships can vary based on factors such as performance, eligibility, and funding availability. Even signing a National Letter of Intent (NLI) does not necessarily guarantee an athletic scholarship for all four years, as scholarships are typically awarded on an annual basis and are subject to various factors. Learn more about the types of athletic scholarships available in your sport here.

We recommend asking your coach for a financial pre-read if you’re unsure if you will receive any aid. With a financial pre-read, your coach will work with the Office of Financial Aid to determine what your family will be expected to pay for tuition. A financial pre-read will help facilitate a conversation about whether you will receive any athletic aid, academic aid, or other merit-based scholarships.

Is a College Obligated to Honor a Verbal Commitment?

Since a verbal commitment is not binding, a college does not need to honor a verbal commitment. However, it is uncommon for a college not to keep a verbal commitment. A few reasons why this could happen are listed below:

  • Coaching Change: If you had a verbal commitment with the coaching staff at the time, and that coaching staff was let go or left that program, the new coaching staff may not uphold that verbal agreement. If you find yourself in this position, you should contact the new coaching staff immediately, introduce yourself, and explain your current situation with their program.
  • Student-Athlete Academics: Good grades are just as important as athletic ability when it comes to securing a spot on a college team. A coach can withdraw their verbal offer if a student athlete's grades drop dramatically or they are not academically eligible. 
  • Student-Athlete Misconduct: If a student-athlete violates their high school conduct code, this may appear on the student-athlete's college application. If you find yourself in this position, being honest with the coach will be essential so it doesn’t surprise anyone when you go through the college's admissions process. 

When Do You Verbally Commit to College?

You can verbally commit at any time in your recruiting process. There are no NCAA rules surrounding verbal commitments because they are not binding. If you find yourself receiving a verbal offer from a school, it'll be crucial that you do your research and ensure that the school is the best fit for you. Do not accept a verbal offer if you are unsure if you see yourself at your school. To ensure the school is the right fit for you, check out our tips here.

Signing a National Letter of Intent

Unlike a verbal commitment or verbal offer, when a student-athlete signs a National Letter of Intent, they officially commit to that school through a binding contract. You should be 100% sure you want to attend that school before signing the NLI. If you have any questions or concerns, take the time to reach out to the coach. 

After signing your NLI, you have officially closed the book on your recruiting process and have officially committed to the school!


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