It’s an age old idea that Jimbo Fisher became the latest to champion on Monday at the ACC’s spring meetings: five years of eligibility. Many people across sports have trotted out from time to time, but Fisher was the first I’ve heard to argue for an extra year in the name of player safety.
Fisher says that many freshmen redshirt simply because they aren’t yet ready to play by the end of September, but with a few extra weeks of practice and development, they are prepared to contribute in November, when the rest of the roster starts feeling the wear and tear of the season. A five-to-play-five would allow those late bloomers to help the team without harming their own careers. “(A freshman) isn’t ready at the beginning of the year, but you have to make that decision (to redshirt) by Game 5 or 6,” Fisher told Dan Wolken of USA Today. “Maybe by games by eight, nine or 10 he’s developed himself to go in there and give you 10, 12, 14 plays a game.
“At the end of that season when those freshmen are ready to play and can help you on special teams or get 10 reps a game, it takes the pressure off a guy who’s banged up and bruised up. The longer you go in these seasons, the more you have to look at those things as a health issue.”
I have to admit, I don’t see a downside and I’ve never heard anyone present a convincing argument why players shouldn’t be allowed to play five years. Just because a player has the opportunity to play an extra year doesn’t mean he has to stay that fifth year. The Jadeveon Clowney’s of the world are still leaving the first chance they get. Coaches wouldn’t be forced to play a kid if he’s not ready, but it does take away the headache of trying to predict a future in which a team may or may not need to pull a kid’s redshirt late in the season.
The only somewhat convincing explanation I’ve ever come across was fronted by ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla. He said that the reason that a fifth year of eligibility has never received serious consideration is because no one knows what to call that fifth year. We’ve become comfortable with the freshman, sophomore, junior and senior progression, and the fifth year is an idea too far outside tradition. It sounds silly, but look how many silly traditions we hold on to every day in all walks of life. Even the idea of giving college athletes a couple hundred extra dollars has thrown the NCAA into a political gridlock that would make Washington proud.
Is there a convincing idea out there? Why don’t schools have the options to play their athletes for five years? “Show me the downside,” Fisher said. “It makes too much sense.”?