Red shirt rule should apply to all sports

July 5, 2018

What about the other sports?

Further examination of college football’s new rule allowing a player to participate in four games and still be red shirted, raises that question and several other compelling queries.

For example:

Why is football the only NCAA sport gaining this advantage? Why can’t basketball, baseball and all the Olympic sports also be the beneficiaries of this rule change? Why should football get to utilize this new rule, while other NCAA sports remain hobbled by the old rule?

Obviously, changing eligibility standards for only one NCAA sport can unleash a Pandora’s Box worth of problems. Yet, officials and football coaches don’t seem to realize any of that. Or they simply don’t care.

Just consider some of their comments.

“This change promotes not only fairness for college athletes, but also their health and well-being,” said Blake James, athletic director at Miami (Fla.) and also chairman of the Division I Council that passed the rule change.

“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. Coaches will appreciate the additional flexibility and ability to give younger players an opportunity to participate in limited competition.”

All those premises are valid. But they also would hold true for all the other sports. I would think an athletic director at a school as prominent as the University of Miami would be well aware of that.

Yet, it remains unaddressed while football coaches such as Alabama’s Nick Saban bask in their new, private rule change.

“One of the most difficult things for players is they can’t play at all when they’re freshmen to be able to gain a redshirt year,” Saban was quoted. “They all want to play.

“This would give them an opportunity to play some and would actually enhance their development to some degree. With the numbers we have right now and the number of games we’re playing, you might be able to play a few more players in some of those games. That would help other players on your team as well.”

All this is true.

The problem is coaches of other NCAA sports want to share the wealth. They want the same red shirt rule. They want the same advantages.

Just ask Danny D’Antoni.

“That would be great because we would get a little bit better evaluation of the true freshmen,” said Marshall’s fifth-year head coach. “I think it’s a good rule. It’s almost like declaring for the NBA Draft as an underclassman, but not signing with an agent and coming back.

“This gives a true freshman a chance to get in and see if he really needs to be red shirted. And you’re only helping the kid.”

If the same one-third of the regular season formula is applied to basketball as the new rule dictates for football, it would mean true freshmen could play in as many as 10 college basketball games and still be red shirted.

“I don’t know how far they would take it,” said D’Antoni, “but certainly six to 10 games wouldn’t hurt. It’s better for the kids. That’s the point. It’s not so much about us, it’s just good for the kids.

“As it is now, you might make a mistake and the kid pays for your mistake.”

It would be a mistake not to implement this rule across the board.

Anybody from Title IX listening out there?

Chuck Landon is a sports columnist for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at clandon@herald-dispatch.com.

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