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CAA believes five years of football eligibility makes sense
Colonial Athletic Association football teams are allowed to take 56 players to road games.
James Madison coach Mickey Matthews says that number seldom is reached, except early in the season.
“We don’t have 56 healthy bodies to travel,” he said. “Most people on this level are going to play on Saturday with about 47 or 48 guys.”
Increasing those numbers, both on the road and at home, is a major reason the CAA is proposing legislation that would allow Football Championship Subdivision athletes to play five seasons instead of four, starting in 2012.
Coaches and administrators believe the plan will help in other areas: reducing injuries because coaches can get tired players off the field more; letting freshmen play occasionally while still giving them the traditional time to develop and mature; not being faced with burning a freshman’s redshirt late in the season because of injuries; and academically.
CAA Commissioner Tom Yeager said NCAA studies indicate players who redshirt their first year don’t perform as well academically as when they’re playing.
The proposal would not apply to teams in Football Bowl Subdivision — the ACC and SEC, for example — that hand out 85 scholarships.
FCS teams have 63 scholarships, which can be spread over 85 players. The proposal would help increase numbers without the expense of increasing scholarships.
Yeager said it is a more efficient use of scholarship dollars, since most athletes are on scholarship for five years anyway.
FCS coaches typically redshirt 10-15 freshmen. Having a player for a fifth year “is huge,” Matthews said.
“The kids have gotten too big and strong and fast,” he said. “A freshman has a difficult time playing in major-college football, whether they’re at James Madison or Virginia Tech or Georgia.”
The concept has been kicked around for a while. CAA coaches are unanimously for it, Yeager said.
“I think it makes a lot of sense for our level of football with the limited number of scholarships and the limited number of players,” William and Mary coach Jimmye Laycock said.
Richmond coach Latrell Scott called it “a great idea.”
“Especially in the FCS, it gives you an opportunity to protect your athletes,” he said.
FBS players looking to transfer to FCS would have to have at least two years of eligibility, Yeager said.
As for why all sports aren’t included in the proposal, Yeager said football is the only sport where redshirting is common.
“People ask, ‘Why should football be treated special?’ ” Matthews said. “It’s a good point. … When you ask coaches of other sports, they do not redshirt kids like football does. In football, it’s the rule rather than the exception.”
Yeager said the proposal will be discussed by several NCAA committees. If there is approval, it probably won’t come until April, he said.
UR athletic director Jim Miller supports the idea but said “the biggest negative is that the push in higher education is more toward coming in and getting out in four years.”
Said Yeager: “The Ivy League doesn’t redshirt. The Patriot League probably doesn’t redshirt much. My guess is they won’t support it. But there are a lot of leagues that do.
“We think it just makes sense. Whether that’s an opinion that will carry the day within FCS, who knows? We thought it would be worth having the dialogue.”
By Tim Pearrell, Richmond Times Dispatch