NCAA Division I just passed a new rule effective in the 2018-19 school year that can benefit student-athletes who redshirted in their freshman year and then in a subsequent season are deprived of a season of competition for reasons beyond their or their school’s control (illness, injury, etc).

If a student-athlete meets all the required criteria, they could apply for an Extension of Eligibility Waiver and if approved by the NCAA,  receive a 6th year of competition in their sport.

While this rule has been in place at DII universities, it has previously not been available at DI schools because the redshirt year was not accepted as a reason to extend the clock. With this rule change, the redshirt year is now accepted as a reason to extend the clock.

To learn more about all the required criteria for this new rule and determine if you or your student-athlete are eligible to apply for this Extension of Eligibility, schedule a private consultation with us.  You can schedule online or call our office at 913-766-1235.

In most cases, any amount of participation in a game or contest against another team counts as a season of eligibility used.

The only way to get that season “over again” will be through a hardship waiver if the athlete incurs an injury or illness that is serious enough to be documented by a physician as a “season-ending” injury or illness.

There are specific limitations for the number of contests that an athlete can participate in and still qualify for a hardship waiver.  Here’s a link to an article we’ve written on this topic:

If your student-athlete is considering the possibility of a waiver, call us at 913-766-1235 if you’d like to discuss your situation in a private consultation.  

I’m often asked by student-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

Perhaps the most important factor in a Medical Hardship Waiver request is the medical documentation to substantiate the injury.

The best case scenario for an athlete to be granted a medical hardship waiver is that the medical documentation from the actual time of the injury or diagnosis state that “this athlete is not yet released to return to full competition in their sport” or a similar statement.

When no such statement is included and it is unclear whether the injury is serious enough to prevent the athlete from competing in their sport, it is less certain that the NCAA, NAIA, or NJCAA will approve the Waiver request.

In addition, when an athlete has not competed at all during a season, even though they had an injury during that season, often times the athletic department will not submit a Medical Hardship Waiver because they are considering that season to be a basic redshirt season.This is because a season of competition wasn’t triggered for the athlete.

It can still be beneficial to process the Medical Hardship Waiver, or at the least, be certain to retain the medical documentation from that injury.  The documentation will be very important in the future of the athlete happens to become injured again and miss a second season of competition.In that situation, it would be possible for the athlete to obtain an extension of their eligibility “clock” and add another year of eligibility.

This is possible when an athlete has missed not just one, but more than one season of competition due to injury or illness.

We can prepare Medical Hardship Waivers or “clock extension” waivers when a college athletic department is not experienced with that process or their workload is such that they are reluctant to prepare the waiver.

To discuss your athlete’s specific situation and their opportunity for a Medical Hardship Waiver or even an extension of their eligibility “clock”, contact us at 913-766-1235 or e-mail

I’m often asked by parents “Are there any exceptions or waivers?” to allow their son or daughter to be immediately eligible when they transfer to an NCAA university.
There are a number of transfer “exceptions” that give a university the authority to grant an athlete immediate eligibility following a transfer.
Until recently, the NCAA has considered waivers to grant an athlete immediate eligibility for extenuating circumstances when an “exception” is not available, for cases including:

  • Family medical hardship
  • Family financial hardship
  • When an athlete has been cut from their previous team (a “run-off” waiver).

However, the NCAA has changed their policies to indicate that waivers to grant immediate eligibility will “…no longer be provided for…student-athletes who are not eligible to use a transfer exception.”
Instead, a one-year extension of the five-year clock for mitigating circumstances may be provided and any mitigation will continue to be evaluated under the current NCAA waiver policies and guidelines.
There are waivers still being granted for immediate eligibility for a few hardship cases when transferring to a Division I university.  However, in most cases NCAA will instead consider adding a year onto the student-athlete’s “five-year clock” so they still have an opportunity for four years of athletic competition.

If you think you may qualify for a transfer waiver, contact us for additional information. Not only can we answer your questions, but we can also assist with the preparation of the waiver itself:

  • if the compliance office at your college is understaffed or overworked, and you want to make sure the waiver is prepared in a timely manner.
  • If the compliance staff is inexperienced, and you want to make sure that the waiver is presented in the best possible manner to increase the opportunity for a successful outcome
  • If the athletic department may not support the waiver and you want to “meet them halfway” for proposing to the department “Will you submit the waiver if we have it drafted for you?”