Redshirting has long been a focus of contention and confusion amongst college football players and fans. In the old “quarters” system it was a complete cluster. Luckily the four appearances rule made it less convoluted. However, confusion still arose at Georgia and Justin Fields had his freshman year wasted on punt protection. He lost his ‘redshirt’ status and subsequently transferred out of Georgia and to Ohio State. The old quarter system has made way for a four game system that makes more sense. However, it is also obsolete in 2020 and beyond.
The four game rule was a nice adjustment. Coaches could now play a freshman (or a senior linebacker like Zach McCloud) in Week 1 against an FCS cupcake, and then reserve their final three games for the end of the season when the freshman is more mature and some of the two-deep has been depleted due to injuries or guys sitting out of the low tier bowl games.
The redshirt concept, created accidentally at Nebraska (that’s how the folklore tells it, anyway) way back in the 1930’s, has become obsolete. The change that I will propose to the eligibility rules is this: every player gets five years to play college football. Eliminate medical redshirts and regular redshirting. In love and the time of COVID, it just makes sense to allow student-athletes five years of full eligibility; no deceit, no questions asked.
Why do I believe this is necessary?
First, programs are going to need access to all 100 or so players on their full roster (walk-ons included) in 2020 (or 2021) with COVID-19 potentially sidelining players for two week blocks. Programs are going to need all hands on deck in order to get through this pandemic if college football is played in 2020-2021.
I’m all for also shifting rules on what quality control assistants and analysts can do if a coach tests positive and has to be quarantined. Coaching rosters need to be as fluid as playing rosters during COVID-19. If your offensive coordinator tests positive for COVID-19 will programs just have to coach with one less coach for two weeks? That’s unreasonable and some shifting to responsibilities will be necessary in 2020 and beyond.
The hope would be that this will help players and coaches be more honest about COVID symptoms (or concussion symptoms for players and other injuries). An adjustment to these rules could save lives or at least save players and coaches from long-term complications. That’s the hope. I realize coaches miss the births of their children for a football game, trust me, I know those guys.
Second, the two most frequent transfer seasons are between freshman and sophomore year and heading into senior season. In my “five year” world, players will be allowed one free transfer without having to sit out and lose a season of eligibility, and that same player can graduate transfer once, too. I believe you would see less early career transfers as players would get on the field more early on.
Many players come to FBS schools after having been the star on their high school team and it’s a tough adjustment to redshirt as a freshman. The Transfer Portal may become less popular if freshmen are playing that first season.
Third, the typical college student takes five and a half years to graduate from typically two colleges. The student-athletes aren’t labeled as employees of the school, the NCAA won’t acknowledge them as “different” than students so let’s adjust our view to the same as the typical student.
Finally, the redshirt and medical redshirt process has long been a deceitful practice. Coaches and players have long lied about injuries in order to secure a medical redshirt and the NCAA is put in a position once again, like with transfers, to make a decision without all of the facts and with no regard to precedent. Let’s take this power out of the NCAA’s hands and eliminate the deceit.
How could this impact Miami?
Miami has been playing short-handed on scholarship players for years. Many programs are. Between attrition and admissions filling all 85 spots isn’t that easy anymore. If player safety is truly a concern more players being allowed to participate on special teams can lessen the sub-concussive contact players encounter, especially in the kicking game.
Think about being able to get Don Chaney and Jaylan Knighton more reps. With two freshmen running backs Miami is going to have to find ways to use both and keep them happy before they hit the transfer portal to coaches at other programs re-recruiting them.
While offensive linemen are often the most in need of a redshirt; programs can now get big and little skill guys more involved every week and not fear losing their redshirt or a year of eligibility because everyone now has five seasons to play. I would love to see more of Tyler Van Dyke to prepare him for becoming the starter in 2021.