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Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)
Want to see Richmond football coach Russ Huesman do backflips?
He promised he would, although it's possible he was kidding, if a proposal currently in the NCAA legislative cycle is adopted. If passed, a Division I player would be allowed to play up to four games in a season without that participation costing him a year of eligibility.
Current NCAA rules allow players five college years to play four seasons. Any game participation, even one snap in competition against another team, counts as a season of eligibility. True freshmen, generally, are those redshirted, meaning they practice but are held out of games. That saves a season of eligibility during their fifth years, when they are more accustomed to the college game and more physically developed.
The change in policy would be "unbelievable," said Huesman. "Especially at our level, with our numbers."
Richmond belongs to the FCS, which has a scholarship limit of 63 compared the FBS maximum of 85. FCS depth problems would be diminished with a change.
"Come by the office and you'll see me doing backflips if that thing passes," said Huesman.
CAA commissioner Joe D'Antonio confirmed Thursday that the proposal was submitted into the 2017-18 NCAA legislative cycle by the ACC, with an effective date of Aug. 1, 2018, if adopted. The NCAA is currently scheduled to consider the change in the spring.
D'Antonio said that barring unintended consequences he couldn't immediately recognize, the proposal appears to be "student-athlete friendly."
According to the ACC's proposal: "The current rule often places coaches in a difficult position to decide whether to play a student-athlete in a limited amount of competition or to preserve the student-athlete's season of eligibility. The opportunity to play in a small number of games will ease this decision for coaches and help the student-athlete's development and transition to the college game."
The proposal notes several potential benefits, and among them are:
Additional flexibility with substitutes may allow starters and more experienced players additional rest and/or to feel less pressure to play through injuries.The opportunity to play will help student-athletes who might otherwise "redshirt" to remain engaged with the team and may reduce the number of transfers that occur annually in football.Opportunities for younger student-athletes to participate in bowl games can be important because these games are often as much about preparing for the following season as completing the current season.The proposal may reduce administrative burden by eliminating the need to process a medical hardship request when a student-athlete is injured after limited participation during a season.
Huesman sees the benefits of a modified redshirting policy being very important throughout the FCS, and it stands to reason that private schools, such as Richmond, would be more positively impacted by the proposal's adoption. Depth is commonly a greater concern at private schools. That's because of relatively few invited walk-ons at private schools because of higher costs of attendance, and those schools' reduced ability to attract players on partial scholarships.
The Spiders went through a sticky situation late during the 2016 season that would have been less of an issue had this new redshirting rule been in effect. In UR's regular-season finale at William & Mary, quarterback Kyle Lauletta suffered a knee injury that ended his season. Backup David Broadus was suspended. Well-regarded Kevin Johnson was in his second year and redshirting.
After Lauletta was hurt, the Spiders tried junior Jake Clise, a former walk-on at LSU, and true freshman Reid Chenault. Neither was effective. Clise left with a shoulder problem.
Johnson, who hadn't played all season, volunteered in subsequent days to break his redshirt year for UR's playoff run. He led the Spiders to wins over North Carolina A&T and North Dakota, and in a quarterfinal loss to Eastern Washington. Those three games counted as a year of eligibility.
Johnson redshirted this season rather than play as the backup to Lauletta, a senior, or be used in special situations to complement Lauletta. Johnson has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
When Division I football's first early signing period started Wednesday, Huesman said his preference continues to be redshirting as many true freshmen as possible, so they are eligible as fifth-year seniors. If the new redshirting rule takes effect, some or all newcomers may comprise the first Richmond class whose members participate during each of their five years.
"I'm praying, praying, that goes through," said Huesman.
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