By Jack Belanger
One of my goals for my blog was to write articles that could be understood by those who may not follow sports as closely as myself. I figured one way to achieve that goal was to start a series of posts that dig into sport terms that are often taken for granted by people who follow sports. For example, most people who follow college sports would have no problem explaining what a redshirt is and how it affects college sports. I am sure many could not say where or how they learned the term, they just learned about it over time.
The term redshirt is a very common phrase in relation to college athletics. Normally, student-athletes have four years of eligibility to participate in their respective sport. When an athlete redshirts, they gain an extra year of eligibility. Thus, someone who redshirts has an extra year to graduate.
When an athlete is called a “redshirt freshman” this means that they are using their first year of athletic eligibility but, academically, the athlete could be taking classes at a sophomore level.
When a student-athlete decides to redshirt for a season, they cannot participate in competitions, but they are still able to practice, workout, and receive academic tutoring.
There are a variety of reasons a player would choose to redshirt or a coach would ask a player to redshirt. If too many players are vying for the same position, a player may redshirt if they are not likely to play much. If a football team is carrying three quarterbacks on a roster, the third-string player may redshirt one year since it is unlikely they will play unless the other quarterbacks suffer an injury.
Coaches can use redshirting to their advantage when recruiting athletes who may not be ready for competition right away. By redshirting an incoming freshman, coaches can develop younger players for a year. This extra year will allow players to get physically ready for competition and also get acclimated to college.
Players can also be redshirted for a year if they suffer a significant injury; however, players and coaches have to be careful when using the redshirt for an injury. A player can only be redshirted due to injury if they appear in less than 30 percent of a team’s competition. This can become a tricky decision if a coach wants a player to return to the team or give them more time for rehabilitation. Players must apply for a medical hardship waiver to be okayed by the NCAA in order to be granted a redshirt due to injury.
Additionally, under certain situations a player may apply for a sixth year of eligibility. This usually only occurs if a player suffers from a very significant injury that forces them to miss more than one season. Recently, Providence College men’s basketball player Emmitt Holt was granted this sixth year after suffering from an abdominal injury that caused him to miss the entire 2017-18 season and all but six games during the 2018-19 season.
If a redshirt athlete receives their undergraduate degree in the typical eight semesters, they can apply to be a graduate student and use their final year of eligibility at a different school. These athletes are often referred to as “grad-transfers”.
I hope this article helped those unfamiliar with what it means to be a redshirt athlete. If there are any other sport terms or concepts you want explained, please leave me a comment on the website.