I’m often asked by athletes “how many games can I play and still be considered a redshirt for this season?” The answer is that, with few exceptions, any amount of time spent in a contest for your college will count as a season of eligibility used.
You could be a softball athlete who comes in to pinch run late in a game, a baseball pitcher who throws just one pitch to get the game-ending double play, or a lacrosse athlete who comes into a game for just a minute or two – in each case, you have now used one of your four seasons of college eligibility in your sport.
However, for an athlete who has appeared in a game or games for their team and then becomes injured, or comes down with a serious illness that prevents them from being able to participate in any more games during the season, it’s possible to obtain a “medical hardship waiver” which will allow them to retain this season of eligibility. In essence, it’s possible for them to get this year “over again” (as long as they haven’t exhausted their five-year or ten-semester window of opportunity).
Here’s a brief overview of the medical hardship waiver rules for the various levels of college competition. Please note that at all levels, medical documentation from the time of the actual diagnosis of the injury or illness will need to be submitted with the waiver request to substantiate that the injury or illness was truly “season ending.”
NCAA Division I – An athlete must not have participated in more than three contests or 30 percent of their season schedule (whichever is greater) and not after the halfway point of the season (based on the number of contests rather than a particular date).
NCAA Division II – For seasons prior to Fall 2017, an athlete must not have participated in more than two contests or 20 percent of their season schedule (whichever is greater). For Division II, unlike Division I and Division III, it’s possible for an athlete to appear in competition after the midpoint of the season and still qualify for a medical hardship waiver.
NCAA Division II, new rule Fall 2017 – An athlete must not have participated in more than three contests or 30 percent of their season schedule (whichever is greater) and not after the halfway point of the season (based on the number of contests rather than a particular date).
NCAA Division III – An athlete must not have participated in more than one-third of the maximum number of contests in a particular sport, plus one contest. (Determine how many contests constitute one-third of the maximum permissible, and then add one.) Also, the athlete must not have participated after the midpoint of the season (based on number of contests rather than a particular date).
NAIA – There is a specific limit for each sport in the NAIA that applies to a hardship request. For example, the limit (which was increased for some sports starting in the 2015-16 academic year) is 11 games for baseball, but 6 dates of competition in softball (since they often play doubleheaders). It is possible for an NAIA athlete to participate after the midpoint of the season and still qualify for a hardship waiver, but if the athlete competes after being examined by a physician for their injury or illness, their opportunity for a waiver is nullified.
NJCAA – Junior college athletes at an NJCAA college must not have participated in more than 20 percent of their maximum allowed season schedule and not after the halfway point of the season.
CCCAA – Junior college athletes at a CCCAA college must not have participated in more than 20 percent of their completed contests (if prior to July 1, 2016) and not after the halfway point of the season. Starting with Fall 2016, the maximum participation was raised to 30 percent from 20 percent.
Here’s another example of a call I have received: “What if my daughter had surgery, but the coach was redshirting her anyway and she never played in a game last season? Is it necessary to request a medical hardship waiver for last season?
The answer to that depends on a few different factors, but could be important later on in her career to possibly gain an additional year of eligibility.
If you have questions about medical hardship waivers, freshman or transfer academic requirements, or appeals, we offer fee-based confidential consultations. Please call us at 913-766-1235 to set your appointment or send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.