NCAA Division I baseball players have five years to complete their four seasons of eligibility. Players at Division II and Division III schools have 10 semesters or 15 quarters to complete their four years. That clock starts when they first enroll at a two- or four-year school. At some point a player may take a season off for competitive reasons such as roster crowding at his position and/or the need for further skill development. This is called a “redshirt” year. It allows him to sit out and remain in the program without wasting one of his four seasons.
General Redshirt Rules
Players must abstain completely from competition to preserve a season of eligibility during a redshirt year. Players who appear in even one inning of one baseball game will lose a season of eligibility, unless they later gain a hardship waiver for injury, illness, family crisis, natural disaster or other calamity. Players in redshirt years are bound by all NCAA rules, including those regulations designed to ensure academic progress toward graduation.
Counting Against the Roster
Division I baseball teams are allowed to give at least some athletic scholarship money to up to 27 players, who are called “counters” in college athletics. These teams are allowed to have 35 players on the roster. Redshirt players receiving any level of athletic scholarship count against both numbers.
Players who suffer a season-ending injury or illness during the first half of the spring season may be eligible for a hardship waiver if they haven’t played in more than 30 percent of their team’s games. Playing time missed during fall baseball does not factor into the hardship calculations. Each player must apply to the NCAA for a hardship waiver and document his case. If the NCAA grants the waiver, that player will receive a do-over for that season — effectively creating a “medical redshirt” year.
In rare instances the NCAA will grant a sixth-year waiver to extend an individual eligibility calendar past five years. That player must show that he lost two seasons due to circumstances out of his control. That effectively gives the player a second redshirt year.
Starting in 2016, NCAA Division I athletics will feature a new type of redshirt year thanks to more stringent academic requirements. An athlete who fails to meet these new standards can still enroll in school if he meets the previous academic standards. But he won’t be able to compete in sports during his first year of school. This new “academic redshirt” designation will be the equivalent of the old “partial qualifier” rule. That rule allowed an athlete to enroll in college, sit out his first season and spend his first academic year becoming eligible for competition.