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New NCAA rules allow football redshirts to play in four games, transfers to leave without permission

Jerry DiPaola
| Wednesday, June 13, 2018, 3:27 p.m.
Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett dives over Miami's Amari Carter for a second-quarter touchdown Friday, Nov. 24, 2017 at Heinz Field.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett dives over Miami's Amari Carter for a second-quarter touchdown Friday, Nov. 24, 2017 at Heinz Field.

The NCAA Division I Council made a major adjustment to the college football redshirt and transfer rules Wednesday, but it came too late to affect Pitt sophomore quarterback Kenny Pickett or former basketball player Cam Johnson.

Starting this year, Division I players will be permitted to participate in up to four games in a season without losing a year of eligibility.

The Council also made a major change to the transfer rule so a student-athlete no longer needs the current school's permission to change schools.

Coaches like to redshirt players, often freshmen, to save a year of eligibility. A redshirt practices with the team and receives financial aid but loses that year of eligibility if he participates in one snap of a game.

Now, he can play in four or fewer games and still save his redshirt. Pickett played in four last year during his freshman season at Pitt, with only one start, and is classified as a sophomore with three years of eligibility remaining.

Under the new rule, he would be a redshirt freshman and be eligible for four years.

The rule applies only to football, but the NCAA said the Division I Student-Athlete Experience Committee will examine how the rule could be applied to other sports, specifically what number of games would be appropriate.

The new rule may lessen the need for injured players to stay on the field.

"This change promotes not only fairness for college athletes but also their health and well-being," said Council chair Blake James, athletics director at Miami. "Redshirt football student-athletes are more likely to remain engaged with the team, and starters will be less likely to feel pressure to play through injuries," James said.

"Coaches will appreciate the additional flexibility and ability to give younger players an opportunity to participate in a limited competition."

Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi endorsed the redshirt rule change, calling it "an outstanding decision." "It allows a player who may be challenged by injuries to not lose an entire year of his college career," he said. "Moreover, our younger players will definitely benefit by having the opportunity to experience live game competition. It will keep them engaged and motivated throughout an entire season."

The Council did institute language to specify that midyear enrollees who participate in postseason competition before or during their first term can't use the exception.

The change to the transfer rule will eliminate situations similar to last year, when Pitt tried to block Johnson from moving to North Carolina. Pitt eventually relented, and Johnson played last season with the Tar Heels.

Now, those athletes seeking transfer can start the recruitment process not long after expressing a desire to leave.

The Division I Council describes the new procedure as "notification of transfer." It allows a student to inform the current school of a desire to transfer, at which point that school has two business days to enter the student's name into a national transfer database.

When the student-athlete's name appears in the database, other coaches are free to start the recruitment process.

The NCAA previously forced players to get permission from their current schools before others could contact them. It won't do that anymore, but conferences still can. At least a few of them, including the SEC, have their own permission-to-contact rule.

The new rule takes effect Oct. 15.

No further changes to the transfer rules were discussed. Undergraduate transfers still are required to sit out a year before gaining eligibility.

There had been discussion about allowing players who meet a certain GPA to play immediately. If enacted, that rule would have made Pitt sophomore wide receiver Taysir Mack, who transferred this year from Indiana, eligible to play this season.

Jerry DiPaola is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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