By: Chad Wilson – Editor in Chief – GridironStuds.com Blog
Follow on Twitter: @Gridironstuds
We’ve all heard the term red shirt in the college football lingo. It’s basically when a college program decides that a freshman will have little impact on the playing field or court in the upcoming season and would benefit from not using a year of live action eligibility. The coach of the team decides to “red shirt” the individual thus giving them a year to grow, learn or even rehab an injury. All individuals competing in interscholastic sports have five years to complete four years of live action. So a redshirt is afforded to all parties competing.
A lesser known term out there is called a grey shirt. This has come into play more often over the last half decade. The practice has stemmed from another more common practice now of over signing by college programs. The practice has also been more commonly used by college football programs. Basically, a team will sign more than their allotted amount for a giving signing period. In an effort to avoid the penalties of doing so, the team will defer the enrollment of one or more players in their February signing class till the Spring semester after the Fall semester the athlete would have normally entered in.
So, Joe Smith, for example, signed a letter of intent in February 2014. He would normally enter and enroll in school in August 2014. However, instead of enrolling in August, he will now enroll in January of 2015. That is what is known as a grey shirt. What this allows the team to do is count the player against the following signing period. Each Division I school is allowed to sign 25 players each signing period. By using the grey shirt, a school can sign 27, for example and grey shirt two players and have them count towards the next recruiting cycle.
What does the grey shirt mean to the individual athlete? Normally, the school will direct the athlete to a junior college where they can take college courses under one important stipulation: the athlete can not take 12 credits or more. Taking 12 credits or more of college courses will essentially start that athlete’s “eligibility clock”. This means that, although the player is not on campus, practicing or playing with the team, their eligibility to play would have started and the Fall semester will count.
What the players will normally do is go to the junior college, take less than 12 credits (for which they are responsible to pay for), freeze their eligibility and then start their eligibility clock in the spring semester. The advantage in doing this is giving the player an additional spring semester to use during their eligibility. So, rather than entering school during the semester in which competition will begin, you enter the school in a spring semester giving you more preparation time before your first semester of competitive play. This is sorta of the opposite of early enrollment.
Who typically gets offered a grey shirt? A grey shirt is typically offered to a player that coaches feel are not a strong candidate to contribute to the team right away. This individual, in the eyes of the coaching staff is more likely to redshirt in that Fall Semester than get actual meaningful snaps. Rather than starting eligibility now, the athlete can start in the spring and get more practice time under their belt.
Many athletes view the grey shirt as a negative because it’s a shot to their ego. They feel it implies that the player is not good enough to compete right away and thus the school wants you to wait and come in later. It’s a quasi form of rejection. However, it should not necessarily be looked at that way. First, the school offered you a scholarship and accepted your letter of intent so they want you. Second, they are being realistic iabout your immediate role on the team. Perhaps they are really excited about your potential and are looking for the best way to maximize it. Third, you would benefit from the extra semester of taking college courses and adapting to teaching the college way. Finally, you also benefit from being able to practice in the spring, learn the schemes and build your body up before actual competition takes place. Of course, explaining this to your boys and withstanding the jabs on social media may prove too tough for most adolescents to handle. If you are strong minded enough and can see the plan for your future, a grey shirt could work strongly in your favor.