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Football: The NCAA's Medical Redshirt, Explained

With Georgia Tech's current situation regarding injuries, it's probably smart that we review what a medical redshirt is, and how a player can attain one.

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Over the last several years, you've probably heard of some of Georgia Tech's players getting a "medical redshirt". You may not know what that means, or how it's obtained. With several injuries plaguing the team lately, let's look at what it means, how a player gets one, and who's eligible from the current team.

What is a medical redshirt?

A medical redshirt is given to an injured player who meets certain requirements, extending their eligibility for another year. In other words, it negates a year of eligibility that was spent when the player was mostly or entirely physically incapable of playing.

How does a player obtain a medical redshirt?

A player obtains a medical redshirt by applying for one through the NCAA following a season when they meet each of the following requirements:

  • The player must have suffered an injury during their senior year of high school, or during one of their four eligible seasons for college competition. (This does not provide for players who are already redshirting a season and are injured in practice.)
  • The injury suffered must be "incapacitating", meaning it must be a season-ending injury.
  • The injury must occur during the first half of the season.
  • The player must have competed in no more than 30% of the season or four games, whichever is greater.

This application requires documented proof that the player meets each of the criteria. For example, Jamal Golden was injured in Game 3 of the 2013 season and had to miss the remainder of the season. He requested and was granted a medical redshirt for the season, and is now playing a fifth season.

Can this get a player a sixth season of eligibility?

A player who has already had a redshirt season and then qualifies for a medical redshirt in a subsequent season can be approved for a sixth year of eligibility. However, those cases are tougher to win, as the player is supposed to have missed two seasons for "circumstances beyond their control", where taking a redshirt as a true freshman would not typically meet that criteria. It could work for a player such as currently-redshirting Nathan Cottrell or KirVonte Benson, though, were they to suffer a second season-ending injury at some point in their careers.

Which of Georgia Tech's players may be medical redshirt candidates?

With so many players injured early on in the season, this becomes a good question. Here are some potential users of this clause:

Position Player When Injury Occurred Justification
QB Tim Byerly (R-Sr) In practice, pre-Tulane Byerly's case may be a tough one given his redshirt season as a true freshman at Middle Tennessee State University, prior to his transfer and subsequent missed year of eligibility.
BB C.J. Leggett (R-Fr) Spring Practice Both of these players redshirted in 2014 for non-injury reasons, meaning a sixth year waiver would be tough to attain. This likely won't come into play for multiple years, though.
AB Qua Searcy (R-Fr) Notre Dame
AB Nathan Cottrell (Fr) Fall Camp This would only be an option were either player to experience a second season-ending injury at some point in his career, at which point he would be a very likely recipient of a waiver to play a sixth year.
AB KirVonte Benson (Fr) Senior Year of HS
OL Chris Griffin (R-So) Pre-Spring Practice Griffin redshirted as a true freshman in 2013, for non-medical reasons. His situation is similar to that of Leggett's.
OL Errin Joe (R-Sr) 2013 Joe missed the 2013 season with a shoulder injury after redshirting as a true freshman in 2011.
DL Patrick Gamble (R-Jr) Duke Gamble was redshirted as a true freshman in 2012 for non-injury reasons and actually won the "Defensive Scout Team Player of the Year" award that season. He's not been declared out for the season at this point (and isn't expected to be), but if he were, it would be a case similar to that of Searcy.

As you can tell, medical redshirts are tough to come by for players who sit out their first season for developmental reasons. Given that it's been a common practice until recently for Coach Johnson to redshirt most true freshmen, this hasn't come in to effect much during his tenure. At this point, there are plenty of true freshmen and sophomores who have played this year, but none of them have suffered season-ending injuries mid-season that might warrant a medical redshirt. But, just be aware that this exists as a possibility for certain players.