« Back to Blog

3 Steps to Keep Lawyers Out of the NLI Process

Some may wonder why National Signing Day has become a nationally televised event. However, anyone who followed Alex Collins’ signing last week knows that National Signing Day brings more drama than some reality T.V. shows. That being said, however, a recruit’s signing should not and does not have to involve lawyers.

For those unfamiliar with Collins’ story, the running back previously committed to the University of Miami. That was until November 2012, when he re-opened his recruitment. On National Signing Day, Collins verbally committed to Arkansas. However, he was unable to sign his National Letter of Intent, because his mother reportedly absconded with it. This was problematic for Collins, as the NCAA requires a parent to sign the National Letter of Intent if the recruit is under the age of 21. One day later, Collins and his father appeared to sign the National Letter of Intent.

In the meantime, Collins’ mother hired an attorney from the law firm started by the late Johnnie Cochran of O.J. Simpson fame. It is unclear whether Collins’ mother hired the law firm to deal with the mounting publicity surrounding her son’s signing or in an attempt to void his National Letter of Intent. Reports indicate that Collins’ mother heavily favored her son attending Miami.

While Collins’ story has created front-page drama in the sports world, anyone can tell you that it didn’t need to be this way. Collins is not the first—nor will he be the last—student-athlete who has chosen a school against his parents’ wishes. Given this, how can parents better prepare for and deal with their child’s college decision in a supportive manner? A parent of a senior Division I basketball player who was recruited heavily by schools nationwide provides some insight:

1. Create a “wish list” early in the recruitment process

Parents should sit down with their child to determine what they and the child wish for in a prospective program. What is the student-athlete looking for in terms of academics and athletic development? Are certain majors presented only at certain schools? Is playing time a big factor in the recruit’s decision? How important is it that the student-athlete remain close to home?

Discussing early on both the student-athlete’s and parents’ wishes for a program is important to avoid surprises later in the recruiting process. If both sides are clear about what is being sought for the student-athlete, a number of programs can be eliminated from the recruiting mix while others can be more heavily focused upon.

2. Develop a “plan of attack” for how the final decision will be made

By what date does the family want the decision to be made? How will various family members’ opinions factor into the decision? Should the most weight be given to the student-athlete or do his or her parents also receive say in the decision? When the final decision is made, what factors could arise which might change it?

Being prepared for when and how the recruit’s decision will be made can prevent situations like Collins’. From an outsider’s perspective, it appears that he and his mother clearly were not on the same page regarding his decision. Had they developed a plan of attack as to when and how he would make his college choice—and stuck with that plan—they arguably could have avoided this entire situation.

3. Support the recruit

For many parents, sending a child off to college is the first time that they’ve let their child go. That being said, it can be very difficult for some parents to accept the reality that their child is now capable of making his own decisions which may go against a parent’s wishes. While a parent may love and support a child unconditionally, they must also do this in the face of the child’s recruitment and subsequent college decision.

Collins ultimately believed that Arkansas offered him a better opportunity than Miami. It’s unknown fully what factors he considered, other than a relationship with the coaching staff and the style of offense the Razorbacks run. To him, these things amongst others, were enough for him to uproot himself from home and journey into an unknown location. For a young man, this is a big and bold decision and one that will only be successful with the support of his loved ones.

While parents should address their concerns about respective programs or a recruit’s decision throughout the process, ultimately, once the recruit makes a decision, family and friends should stand behind him in support. This will allow the recruit to make the most out of the opportunity provided to him.

For the time being, it’s unclear whether Collins’ recruitment saga is over. Lawyers and football fans alike should definitely keep their eyes peeled for his mother’s next legal maneuver.

Are you ready for the NEXT STEP!