Rule change will allow football players 4 games without a redshirt

By: Matt Jones
Published: Wednesday, June 13, 2018
Arkansas linebacker Kyrei Fisher takes part in a drill Saturday, April 1, 2017, during practice at the university practice field in Fayetteville.
Photo by Andy Shupe
Arkansas linebacker Kyrei Fisher takes part in a drill Saturday, April 1, 2017, during practice at the university practice field in Fayetteville.

— Football players will be able to compete in as many as four games without losing a year of eligibility, the NCAA Division I Council ruled Wednesday.

The rule change, which will go into effect in the 2018 season, primarily is aimed at allowing coaches the ability to play freshmen in a limited number of games without burning a redshirt season. The rule could allow a player's preparedness to be judged in early-season games or allow a freshman to play late in the year if an injury causes a lack of depth at a position.

Previously, only injured players could earn a redshirt for a season in which they competed in a game.

"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," said Blake James, chairman of the Division I Council and athletics director at Miami. "Coaches will appreciate the additional flexibility and ability to give younger players an opportunity to participate in limited competition.”

Under the new rule, at least two Arkansas football players could have redshirted the 2017 season despite competing in games. Linebacker Kyrei Fisher played in the first game of the season against Florida A&M and the regular-season finale against Missouri, and receiver Jarrod Barnes did not play after the season opener. Fisher and Barnes will be sophomores in 2018.

Players are not expected to retroactively qualify for redshirts under the new rule and the rule cannot be used to allow mid-term enrollees to participate in bowl games.

The rule change was proposed by the ACC and backed by the American Football Coaches Association. A vote on the proposal was tabled in April.

NCAA committees are expected to explore a similar rule change for other sports next spring, including what number of games would be acceptable in each sport. The four football games account for 33 percent of the regular season.

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