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NCAA makes major rules change for football redshirts

A handful of snaps will no longer cost players a season of eligibility.

Reese Leitao

On Wednesday, the NCAA Division I rule council announced a major change in policy regarding redshirts in football, allowing players to participate in up to four games without sacrificing a season of eligibility.

“This change promotes not only fairness for college athletes, but also their health and well-being. Redshirt football student-athletes are more likely to remain engaged with the team, and starters will be less likely to feel pressure to play through injuries,” council chair Blake James said. “Coaches will appreciate the additional flexibility and ability to give younger players an opportunity to participate in limited competition.”

The proposal was originally tabled back in April due to a handful of concerns. One issue raised was addressed by legislation that ruled midyear enrollees cannot use the exception participate in postseason competition. In other words, an early enrollee can’t play in the national championship game without sacrificing a full season of eligibility.

The rule was much anticipated by Texas Longhorns head coach Tom Herman after a rash of injuries last fall. No position was hit harder than tight end, which didn’t feature a single healthy player after graduate transfer Kendall Moore went down with an injury in the Texas Bowl.

Had the rule been in place last season, Herman could have used tight end Reese Leitao in that game or even in the last several games of the regular season without losing his season of eligibility.

Likewise, with more players opting to skip bowl games to declare for the NFL Draft, redshirting back ups would have an opportunity to participate in the postseason.

The rule could make the most difference in non-conference games or other blowouts by giving coaches a chance to audition freshmen and keep them engaged. Indeed, the new rules should greatly benefit coaches who want to dangle the potential to play in up to four games for players who would otherwise sit on the bench all season for growth purposes.