As national Signing Day approaches, you can impress your friends with the tidbit of knowledge that Dr. J. William Davis created the National Letter of Intent in 1964. From Texas Tech's official site:
The "father of the national letter of intent," Dr. J. William Davis was chairman of Texas Tech's Athletic Council. He devised the form that insured coaches could not pirate another school's recruits. The measure was adopted in 1964 by the College Commissioners Association. Under the "Davis Plan," as a news service dubbed the program, major conferences agreed to honor each others' letters of intent; that is, agreements by high school athletes to accept an athletic scholarship from a particular school. A national letter of intent, embracing all NCAA members, failed to pass at the 1962 NCAA convention, when smaller colleges opposed the plan. Davis served as Southwest Conference president, NCAA vice-president and was a member of the NCAA Infractions Committee.
The NCAA site notes that the other reason for the impetus of the National Letter of Intent was to curb spending that coaches were spending on recruiting and colleges would often steal recruits even while students were enrolled in class:
The program was created in 1964 by a group of seven conferences, chaired by J. William Davis, a retired professor and faculty athletics representative at Texas Tech. The original intention was to curb recruiting excesses that began when college sports became a national endeavor with the increased television exposure of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Stories of schools luring away a football player even after he was enrolled on another campus paint a picture of the intensity of recruiting in this period.
To stop such behavior, some conferences formed a plan to issue "letters of intent," documents recognized only within a conference that would keep other conference coaches from recruiting a student-athlete once he declared his intent to participate at a specific school. The plan worked well within the conferences that adopted the policy, but the effect was limited because it was not national in scope. Several attempts to codify the letter of intent nationally through the NCAA failed.
*Hat-tip to RndRckTTU for sending this to me.