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NCAA considers five years of eligibility

College football fans may soon be able to root for their favorite players for five seasons.

The NCAA football issues committee drafted a proposal allowing five years of eligibility for players­ – instead of the current four years – and the elimination of redshirting practices.

“I’m definitely for it,” coach Jim Leavitt said. “It allows some flexibility for hardship (seasons) … I don’t see why they wouldn’t do it.”

Leavitt isn’t alone among college football coaches.

“I would be all for that,” Southern Mississippi coach Jeff Bower said. “With the 12-game season, injuries and the 85-scholarship amount, you need to let players play right away and not have to wait around to redshirt a year and then play.”

During a redshirt season, the player may attend classes and practice with the team, but not participate in any games. Although the proposal is just in the beginning stages, the additional year of eligibility will likely be discussed at Division I football-playing conference spring meetings.

If the move is adopted, several NCAA committees would have to approve before a final membership vote.

During an interview with the Associated Press at the Women’s Softball World Series, NCAA President Myles Brand said the proposal “might be favorable” if players could no longer redshirt a season.

“I think if we do it right, to make sure student-athletes actually have educational activities throughout their five years – which approximates the actual practice – and we do away with medical redshirting [and] actual redshirting, I don’t see anything wrong with that,” Brand said.

The system in place allows college athletes four years of eligibility with an additional season of play only if a significant injury has taken place.

“The problem with (redshirting) is you have a guy who plays six games and his year is used up,” Leavitt said. “So you have to make a decision about that. If a guy gets hurt, it has to be within the first three games, and that can become a real issue.”

The new system would also allow athletes to transfer once and still play four seasons. Football players currently lose one season if they change schools.

Many incoming freshmen football players use their redshirt season immediately to learn the playbook, gain strength or if a particular position already has an abundance of talent.

The system in place has been under fire since an additional game has been added to the regular season.

According to Brand, the average student takes 4.7 years to graduate college and 80 percent of football players are granted redshirt seasons.Both coaches feel the elimination of redshirting would only improve college football.

“(The players) have a drive to compete so they want to play right away,” Bower said. “It would help the players because it would give them a chance to play right away and develop without sitting out a year. It would give the team more players to help with injury prevention.”