Red Shirt

To be clear from the beginning, I do not mean to disparage any player for decisions they have made or will make in their own best interest. I am coming at this from the point of view of the coaching staff and school in general.

I remember sitting in UB stadium that very hot opening day in 2015 against Albany. Going into that year I remember two players that had some recruiting buzz to them, Johnathan Hawkins and Tyree Jackson. I remember watching T3 hanging out with Joe Licata thinking he was our future, fully expecting him to red shirt (which he did) as there was no need to rush him into a game that year (this was before the 4 game rule). With Anthone Taylor and Jordan Johnson there would be no reason to play Hawkins either. If red shirting worked for Khalil Mack, and there is no pressing need, why not red shirt these guys with hopes of a more impactful 5th year? At one point in the game, much to my surprise, I see Hawkins enter the game. I said to PE21 "why are we burning his red shirt here and now" (fyi he had 10 of his 15 carries and 37 of his 53 yards for the season in a blowout win in week one).

Different time, different era and pre portal where you kind of expect players to use their full eligibility at one school. Good, bad, or indifferent the world has changed and maybe coaches should be looking at red shirting differently than they did in 2015. As we know, playing Hawkins and not playing T3 that day did not make a difference. Before Hawkins could use his full time at UB Jaret Patterson emerged as the stud #1 back (not to mention Kevin Marks) and T3 passed on his final year to go pro.

I saw a comment recently that in the last year we have lost 6 Olinemen to P5 schools. Not that I did not really know that but seeing the total just put faces to the reality that G5 will be the farm system for mid to lower P5 and mid to lower P5 will be the farm system to top tier P5. Add to that any top tier P5 player that is not getting the love (NIL) or playing time they want will be in the portal sooner than later. Again, it is what it is but in this reality who has an incentive to set out to red shirt a player anymore?

Let’s game this out

Top Tier P5

This group should be able to recruit from HS players that can contribute on day one or get them from the portal. Let someone else use a scholarship year developing a player. If they blossom, they will be in the portal sooner or later.

Mid to lower P5

You have a better chance here to have a solid player who sticks around for 5 years as a contributor but not necessarily a super star. For everyone of those guys how many scholarship years could be better used on a top tier P5 guy looking for playing time or a G5 stud looking to move up?


These are the recruits out of HS that will most benefit from the red shirt year to develop what was missing that kept them out of P5. Like the mid to lower P5, you will get a few players that stick around for 5 years as contributors but again if they blossom the odds are good the lure of P5 will get them into the portal sooner or later and the G5 school will not benefit fully for developing that player. They will get that breakout year, but does it help the original school if that is at the 1st or 3rd year of eligibility? Will they get another year of return on investment after the breakout? James Patterson being the counter argument, I am not saying it will not happen, but James will be more and more the exception.

To me at least, it seems like a better option to "develop" a player with potential is under live fire without "saving their red shirt". If they can contribute to winning any game get them in there and get that benefit now. With the new 4 game rule in football it has become much easier to avoid "burning the red shirt" than it is in basketball. My references have all been football but the theory hold the same if not more so for basketball since there is no 4 game rule (that I know of yet). To use a basketball example, with COVID, both Segu and Williams opted to not use their extra year at UB. Again, whether I agree or disagree with their decision is not the point. You might get 5 (or 6 or was it 30) years out of a Bertram but you are not going to get that from a Williams very often.

I like the idea of red shirting and it is a benefit for the player, both in their game development and increasing their odds to actually graduating. As players take a "it is nothing personal it is just business" approach to where they play it is only reasonable that coaches/schools take the same approach. If they do, I see a lot less red shirting for anything other than injuries or there was just no benefit to putting them in a game.

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