Redshirting, Notre Dame style

Author: Mike Connolly '02

Notre Dame has always been a little different when it comes to the common college football practice of redshirting — holding first-year students out of competition to give them experience and time to grow. As long as they don’t appear in games, they retain their full four years of eligibility. Most will eventually enroll in classes for a fifth year so they can play that deferred fourth year.

Most college coaches publically acknowledge redshirting but not at Notre Dame. That’s because Notre Dame does not automatically give redshirted students permission to play. They can enroll for a fifth year, but to play they need permission from the Faculty Board on Athletics, which advises the president on educational issues related to athletics..

The 15-member board — consisting of elected and appointed faculty members from each college, the athletic director, a representative from the president’s office and the director of Academic Services for Student Athletes — recently formalized some of its requirements for fifth-year approval.

For one, a student athlete must carry at least nine course credits. In the past the board had the discretion to approve a class schedule of any size. Nine credits is still less than the minimum of 12 credits necessary to be considered a full-time student at Notre Dame and qualify for on-campus living. The typical Notre Dame student carries 15 credits per semester.

Another change is that a fifth-year player’s classes no longer have to be connected to the student’s previous course of study. In the past, a business major or new business graduate would have to keep taking business courses. Now students have the flexibility to take classes they might not have been able to fit into their schedule before because of degree requirements.

“We just want to make sure that students remain engaged in the University,” Fernand “Tex” Dutile, chairman of the board, said of the formalization of the requirements.

The new requirements also move up the timetable for applying for a fifth year. In the past, only second-semester seniors could apply. In the future, with the coach’s permission, a student may apply as early as second semester of junior year. This can help better plan an academic schedule and spread requirements over the next two years.

Dutile said he expected 14 or 15 students to apply for fifth-year eligibility in 2002-03, most of them football players.