Minnesota football coach Jerry Kill has floated the idea of allowing redshirts to play in a bowl game without burning a season of eligibility. While this is a terrible idea, at least Coach Kill did not hide his true motives behind a smokescreen of “unique participation opportunities for student-athletes”:
“You’d like to have it happen, I can tell you that, because it makes a lot of sense because there’s a lot of people going to bowl games all beat up,” Kill said this week.
If you could limit such a proposal to only football and only some bowl games, it makes a bit of sense. Most bowl games are essentially exhibitions and involve neither serious reward for the schools or help to determine a champion of anything besides the bowl itself.
But with the current relationship between the NCAA and the bowls, limiting such an idea is next to impossible. If one bowl is allowed to include redshirts and others are not, someone will cry foul, even file an antitrust suit in an area the NCAA has done very poorly in over the last few years. And if football got this sort of exception, pressure would start immediately to expand it to all postseason opportunities.
Anything much like Kill’s proposal is unlikely to happen in the near future. But what is notable is the increasing opposition to the basic NCAA rule that any competition equals a season of competition. This proposals and the uproar over Tim Abromaitis’ suspension last year are two examples. Alumni games and fundraising activities were recently exempted from the basic rule.
Perhaps it is time for the NCAA to rethink even this most basic rule. Possibilities would include using the medical hardship waiver calculations to track all redshirts. Or moving to five seasons of competition. But the issue does not appear to be on the NCAA’s radar for at least the next two years.