What does it mean when a college football player is a redshirt?
Electing to remain a “redshirt” is a common occurrence in college football, but the reasoning behind it can be varied and complicated.
Being a redshirt means postponing one’s eligibility to play football for a year, thereby extending it into a fifth year of college.
During a redshirt year, an athlete can fully attend classes, practice with the team, and even “suit up” in the team uniform and play up to four games to preserve a year of eligibility. Previously, players couldn’t play at all to keep their redshirt year. This resulted in coaches “burning” a player’s redshirt year to play in an emergency when a player got hurt, for example, thus losing a year of eligibility.
College football redshirt rule, explained
A player may elect to become a redshirt for a variety of reasons, including:
- The student-athlete may be unprepared to balance coursework and on-field play, enrolling in tutoring as they adjust to college life.
- The player needs to improve their grades to academically qualify for the team.
- Taking an extra year to practice with the team allows for further development before competing for a spot on the depth chart. Specifically, some players need an extra year to physically add size and get to a size and weight that can physically compete at the college level.
- An additional year to learn a college playbook, which is more complex than a high school playbook.
There is already an upperclassman in their position, so the player waits their turn.
There are many reasons why a coach will want a player to take a redshirt year, and it is by no means a negative decision that will limit a player’s future. Rather, redshirting can give a player an opportunity to grow they otherwise wouldn’t have.