By Karis Fuller
When it comes to collegiate sports, time is precious. Each student athlete is given four years of eligibility. Once used, it is all over. What if one or more of those years are taken away from you? Sadly, that’s the harsh reality many athletes face when they receive an incapacitating injury. The National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II (NCAA D2) revisited its rules regarding medical red-shirting this past year, thanks to DII student-athlete representatives across the country.
In late 2016, each Division II school voted, based on the views of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), to change the criteria for medical red-shirting. Debbie DeJong, LIU Post’s new athletic director, explained the previous rule. “If you competed in less than 20 percent of your maximum contest, you can put a waiver in through your conference office for red-shirt,” she said. “That 20 percent is of your entire season”. If you stepped foot on the field, court or pitch in over three out of 12 games, you were no longer eligible for a medical waiver. This is hard for many, as a whole year of eligibility can be wasted on a three game season. With increases in concussions, ACL tears and various other incapacitating injuries, this was a change that many student-athletes felt needed to happen.
Due to the voices of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC) and the ears of the NCAA, action has been taken. As of August 1, 2017, red-shirt rules have changed. Now, “a student athlete may participate and remain eligible for hardship waiver to three contests or dates of competition or 30 percent of the maximum number of permissible contests.” And it must be in the first half of the season. Not only did the SAAC representatives want to accommodate the growing number of injuries in DII sports, but they also felt that the bylaw should match that of Divisions I and III.
Implemented at the beginning of this school year, the new red- shirting rule does just that. “Now the legislation for medical red-shirt hardship years are equal through all divisions that you play,” DeJong said.
The new rule is not only a successful change as it protects the student-athletes competing, but it is also a great tribute to the SAAC representatives on a national scale who made this happen. “Almost no bylaw change is made without the membership voting on it. Which means every DII institution gets one vote,” DeJong said. This change was made successful by the student-athletes, for student-athletes, without any administrative or governing body’s influence.
DeJong stressed the importance of this change, as all will reap the benefits. “All sports will see the impact, every single student athlete that participates in any division will see the impact,” she said. “This will help all student athletes be able to participate and feel like they get the opportunity to participate and represent their university to the max.”