College will be the best four years of your life, potentially five. Many student-athletes stumble upon the reality of an extended college experience due to an athletic redshirt. If you’re looking for a quick guide to college baseball redshirts and eligibility timelines, you’re in the right place. The NCAA has quite a few exceptions and unique situations, so while not exhaustive, this article should give players and parents a pretty good overview of redshirt rules and regulations.
First and foremost, the NCAA doesn’t officially recognize the term “redshirt”. Instead, they view things from more of an eligibility timeline perspective. When redshirted, the player is extending their academic career to utilize their four years of eligibility to participate in competition.
Also, if you landed on this post and you are a prospective college baseball player or are considering transferring, you should check out this helpful tool. It is a free resource that contains roster insights, coaching info, recruiting questionnaires, and upcoming camps/clinics for hundreds of four year baseball schools.
DI Baseball Redshirts and Eligibility Timelines
For DI baseball programs, players have five calendar years to utilize their four years of participation in competition. That clock starts as soon as a player enrolls as a full time student, and will keep ticking even if a player becomes a part-time student, sits out a year due to transfer rules, redshirts, or takes a year off from school.
Through our college baseball search tool we’ve been able to collect interesting data on the trends of redshirts across NCAA baseball programs. In the five years prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, we only saw a slight upward trend in the average number of redshirts on DI rosters. For the 2020 season, the average DI roster contained just shy of 5 redshirt players.
DII & DIII Baseball Redshirts and Eligibility Timelines
DII and DIII eligibility works a little differently. Instead of working off of calendar years, the timeline is semester focused. Players have 10 semesters to be a part of an athletic program. Of those 10 semesters, players have four years to participate in competition. Unlike DI, the clock only ticks as you are enrolled as a student.
One thing that makes division III eligibility unique is stricter guidelines with practicing. Players who practice after the first date of competition automatically use a year of eligibility. As a result, redshirting technically doesn’t exist at the DIII level, although some programs still classify players as redshirts. With DI and DII programs, players can continue to practice throughout the year. For the first time in the past 5 years, the average number of redshirts at the DII level actually exceeded DI programs. We’ve seen a consistent uptick in redshirts on DII rosters over that five year span.
Types of Redshirts
There a several different reasons why players end up redshirting. The best way to classify them would be by categorizing them as medical and non-medical. Medical redshirts are pretty self explanatory. A player gets injured and it is not counted as a year of eligibility. There are two requirements for players to be eligible for a medical redshirt. The injury must have occurred in the first half of the season and the player must have competed in less than 30% of the competition.
The Non-medical bucket is not so cut and dry, and can vary from academic to athletic development circumstances. Student-athletes may have to take a redshirt their first year, if they are deemed academically ineligible coming out of high school. The GPA requirement varies by division, but just because a student meets the academic standards for a certain university, it doesn’t necessarily mean it meets the NCAA’s requirement. We’ve also seen scenarios where a university deems an athlete ineligible due to academic performance. This could also result in a player taking a redshirt year.
Coaches also decide to redshirt players for athletic development purposes. Some players need another year of maturity before they are ready to compete at the collegiate level. Coaches may also go down this path if there are minimal playing time opportunities for a freshman. Instead of wasting a year of eligibility, the player can further develop, during a time where he would not have seen much playing time. The athletic development redshirt is used pretty frequently and is something you need to be aware of as you start to consider certain baseball programs.
How it impacts your recruitment
As a prospective college baseball player, it’s important that you understand a program’s redshirt tendencies. We know that redshirts can come about from unplanned circumstances, but recognizing patterns can give you some insight about a program.
If you come across a college baseball program with a lot of redshirts it might be worth digging a little deeper. It would be helpful to know how many of those redshirts were medical, and how many were for athletic development purposes. A pitching staff with a lot of medical redshirts might be a bit of a concern. Additionally, a program with a lot of developmental redshirts might have you question; would I be on the same track if I play for that program?
Extending your college experience has some pretty big impacts, so before you decide on a program, it is important to understand a coach’s tendencies and intentions. Everyone has a different set of preferences on their willingness to spend five years at college. If you are not quite sure what your preference is, you should think about the following questions:
- Are you okay with sitting out a year to further develop athletically?
- How does an extra year of college impact your financial situation?
- How would it impact your academic planning? Would it give you the opportunity to double major, or maybe even start grad school?
- Are you okay with a five year college experience?
Using our college baseball search tool, you can quickly find this information for all NCAA baseball programs, across all divisions. Within this tool, we provide several other metrics that evaluate the key components of a baseball program, allowing you to quickly identify schools that are a perfect fit for you.
If you are interested in learning more about NCAA eligibility timelines, you should check out this article.