Football Redshirt Rule Tabled But Not Dead For 2018
While several rule changes for college football were passed for the upcoming season, one that had drawn a good deal of interest and discussion was tabled for a year. The Division I Council, in considering a proposal that would allow football student-athletes to participate in up to four games in a year without using a season of eligibility, decided not to approve it.
Support for the proposal was very strong, although not unanimous, among many football coaches. The AFCA and the vast majority of Division I coaches did support the changes. Proponents argue that late-season injuries and other factors often require student-athletes who hadn’t played all season to burn a year of eligibility for a small number of games. It would also, as an ancillary benefit, allow some players who weren’t ready to play at the start of the season to get some experience later on. Of course, it could also be used as a sort of try-out, with players getting time in the first couple games of the season, then going back to the bench to preserve their playing status. It could also be used to get players time in the late season in preparation for next year — an unintended consequence.
Those potential drawbacks led to the decision to study the proposal for an additional amount of time. According to an NCAA release, “Others wonder whether the proposal could be applied to other sports, as well, whether the number of games in the proposal is appropriate, and whether the timing of the four games mattered.” Could the four games of play occur anytime during the season, or only at the beginning or end? What would the effect be on, say basketball, where the same standards would allow a player to appear in seven or eight game before having the year count?
The Football Oversight and Student-Athlete Experience Committees are expected to review these and other potential questions, and provide a further report in June. However, that doesn’t mean that the proposal is dead for this year. With or without additional information or recommendations, the proposal could still be passed in June, in either a modified or unmodified form. If concerns about the rule’s effect on other sports can’t be resolved, it could also be proposed as a football-only option, although that appears less likely at the moment.
West Virginia is one of many schools with a story to tell about using a player late in the season who was otherwise slated to redshirt due to injuries to others at that position. After sitting out the first 10 games of the 2016 seson, WVU running back Martell Pettaway saw his redshirt lifted due to injuries from players in front of him. While he performed admirably it was only over a three-game stretch at the end of the year. There wasn’t another realistic option, and while Pettaway professed to being fine with the decision, he also wouldn’t turn down the chance of having the option of that season returned. (There’s also debate about making the rule retroactive for anyone still in college.)
Big 12 coaches, on a recent conference call, were unanimous in their support. Texas Tech’s Kliff Kingsbury focused on players who appear early on but show they aren’t ready to compete yet. Veteran Kansas State coach Bill Snyder was a bit more diplomatic, noting that some different viewpoints are understandable “depending on which chair you sit in,” and voicing support for a simpler five-year eligibility span that wouldn’t limit the “redshirt year” participation to a quarter of the schedule.
WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen has voiced his support for the modified rule throughout the discussion, and his views, buttressed by a less than full scholarship roster and lack of available players at some positions, are shared by many.
Kansas head coach David Beaty sounded the case for football as a different entity that should sometimes be governed by different rules.