Volleyball Early Signee Rejected by Her University at Last Minute

 In Recruiting Mistakes, Recruiting Tip of the Day

As a seasoned recruiting coordinator who specializes in helping high school student athletes play volleyball at the next level, a best case recruiting journey looks like this: you’ve signed your national letter of intent (NLI) early in your senior year with the college of your choice. What a relief! You’ve committed and the pressure to make your college decision has been eliminated. The recruiting process is officially over. You have a scholarship and can now enjoy every last moment of your senior year activities.


Sounds like a dream, right? Now picture this: imagine thinking you have your decision behind you with your signed NLI in hand only to receive word in mid-April, just two weeks before freshman decision day, that you didn’t meet your college’s admission criteria and are being released from your NLI. Suddenly your dream has turned into a nightmare. What do you do and where do you go? Most college volleyball rosters are filled.


In the seven years I’ve worked in this field, I thought I had seen it all. That was until a few weeks ago, when I received a hysterical call from a client who shared this very real, very painful experience. She signed her letter of intent early with the school of her dreams: a prominent Division 1 private university in the Western U.S. – an institution whose mission is steeped in integrity, religion, social responsibility and doing the right thing by its students – only to be dropped by the program with little time to act.


How did this happen, you ask?


“Amy” (name changed to protect her privacy) is a high performing talent on the court. She earned first team, all-league honors in both her junior and senior years at her Southern California high school, where was captain and her team’s MVP. Her ultimate goal was playing Division 1 volleyball for a top West Coast university and she had plenty of opportunities based on the interest she had received from college coaches.


Amy had one particular program in her sights and followed all of the rules. She submitted her unofficial transcripts and test scores to the university prior to making her official visit in October last year. The school had her records for six months prior to the admissions decision being made just last month. While her GPA and test scores were a bit lower than the average freshman admitted student profile, Amy was reassured throughout the process that there wouldn’t be any issues. She was repeatedly told everything was fine and not to worry. Fast-forward to mid-April, when Amy was released from her NLI. Her admission had been declined.


Here’s what you need to know. The national letter of intent is a binding contract. When a student athlete signs it, she agrees to halt discussions with other college programs, thus ending the recruiting process. Coaches fill their rosters, the player can focus on her last year of high school and everyone wins. . .or so you would think. With a signed NLI, athletic programs are required to honor at least one year of scholarship monies to their athletes. . .as long as the athlete is admitted to the school. This can serve as a one-sided loophole for schools, completely within NCAA guidelines.


As quoted in a recent Vice Sports article, Marc Isenberg, a California-based athlete advocate and author of Money Players: A Guide to Succeed in Sports, Business & Life for Current and Future Pro Athletes, said, “It’s the ultimate out. Schools can say to any player, ‘Well, sorry, you didn’t get in. You didn’t fit the academic profile of the students we’re admitting.’ “ He continued, “Think of how subjective that is. Suppose I’m a coach. How easy would it be, if I decide I can do better giving a scholarship to another player, to just not push for one of my recruits to be admitted?”


Sounds cutthroat, I know. Even more so is when the athlete, like Amy, isn’t notified about this news in a timely manner.


So now Amy, her family and I are scrambling to find an alternate program.


Let me be clear, this not fake news. . .names have been changed/omitted to protect identities, but this is really happening, and not only at this one college.


Read more about Amy and her story in our next installment.

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  • Dick Grayson

    This happened to me, although in another way. I verbally committed a kid, a program changer, in January, to a FULL scholarship and I wasn’t fully funded. Programs started to discover her, Power 5 programs like Florida State started to discover her, but we verbally committed her and she stayed true to her word. When it came time to admit her, I was told she wasn’t admissible. Her grades were not even close to being NCAA non-qualifier status. They weren’t stellar, but hardly worse than 50% of the incoming freshman. In fact, her grades were better than a majority (60%) of the incoming football freshman players and WAY BETTER than the women’s basketball team. But because volleyball was considered a “Tier 3” sport, we had very specific and difficult to prove guidelines if we wanted a kid that couldn’t get admitted herself. I pushed HARD to do for the school to do the right thing. Nothing. So I ended up having the conversation that she couldn’t attend “XYZ” school, I found her a JUCO to play at in the meantime, but then I was let go and never got to coach her. It not only broke my heart to tell this family that, it may have ruined that kids future. We will never know how that impacted her. I know it was a stark revelation for me that there is very little purity in athletics, and that the NCAA and institutions who say they are all about the students are not. It’s the little white lie they like to tell. When my career is all done, I am writing a book about the truth behind this “profession” of athletics. It will be a good read someday.

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