Find out who won all of the AFCA’s coach of the year awards at the AFCA Awards Show in Charlotte on Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018.
USA TODAY Sports
CHARLOTTE — College football coaches attending the American Football Coaches Association’s annual convention were “unanimous,” according to executive director Todd Berry, in support of a significant rule change regarding player eligibility.
For the second year in a row, the AFCA asked coaches at the convention about altering the existing redshirt rule to allow players to participate in up to four games in a season and still retain status as a redshirt (thus preserving four years of eligibility). Currently, if a player participates in a single play in a season, he uses a year of eligibility.
By unanimous, Berry clarified: “I mean unanimous,” he said, insisting that in surveys of coaches at each level of college football during the convention, no one was against the proposed changed.
“There were no dissenters on any level,” he said. “Very rarely will you find coaches in agreement like this.”
That includes 59 FBS head coaches, including 28 from schools in the power five conferences, who attended an annual issues meeting last Wednesday.
The NCAA’s current eligibility model allows athletes five years (after beginning full-time college enrollment) to play four seasons, but in order to qualify for a redshirt season, a player must not participate in any games in a given season. Berry said the model worked when college football programs had more than 100 scholarships and played 10-game schedules.
At the FBS level, programs are limited to 85 scholarships and play 12-game regular seasons (and could play as many as 15 games); at lower levels, they’re allowed fewer scholarships.
“I don’t see any valid arguments against it,” Berry said. “Nobody’s against it. I’ve never heard a valid argument against it.”
The Atlantic Coast Conference has sponsored a proposal to change the rule. The proposal would resemble the current allowance in the NCAA’s medical hardship rule, which allows players who are injured and cannot return in a season to retain the year of eligibility if they are injured before playing in more than 30 percent of the games in the first half of the season.
The ACC’s proposal would be broader, allowing a player to participate in four games at any point in the season.
Berry said the stresses of fewer scholarships and more games, along with an increased attention to player safety, has led to more concerns about asking players to play late in seasons, thus burning their redshirts.
“It’s not fair to ask a student athlete this question: ‘I’ve run out of people. I know it’s the 11th game, but I need you for 10 snaps to get out of this game,’” Berry said. “Guys don’t get very long to do this in the first place and we’re gonna take away a whole year for 10 plays? But that’s the rule now.”
Berry hopes the coaches’ endorsement would help push the ACC’s proposal to approval at the upcoming NCAA Convention, perhaps even in time for the 2018 season. He said the only pushback he’s heard was that other sports might want a similar rule change.
“If it’s right for student athletes, what’s wrong with other sports doing the same things?” he said, adding that it shouldn’t be an issue to restrict the change to football because of its unique stresses.
“This needs to pass,” Berry said. “This needs to pass right now. … We know it’s right for football.”