Redshirt in College Basketball

John Calipari
College athletes with NBA hopes love Kentucky head coach John Calipari because he rarely redshirts players.

Michael Reaves/Getty Images 

A redshirt is a player who sits out an entire season of his or her sport in order to preserve a year's worth of eligibility. The term can be used as a noun (He's a redshirt), a verb (He's going to redshirt this season) or an adjective (The redshirt freshman is going to start at quarterback).

"Redshirt freshman" refers to a player in his second year of college—an academic sophomore—in his or her first year of athletic competition.

There are a number of reasons why a player might take a redshirt year:

  • He might feel he needs an extra year to develop physically before competing at the Division I level.
  • He might want the extra time to get acclimated to the college, the team, or the system
  • He might not have an opportunity to play right away due to ​the depth at his position and might take a redshirt season rather than spend a year on the bench.

Redshirt players can practice with their teams, but cannot compete in games.

Students can take redshirt years in any sport, but it is most common in football. The term is derived from the red practice jerseys traditionally worn by ​players, not on the active roster.

Medical Redshirt

You may also have heard the term "medical redshirt," and yes it is very similar to a regular redshirt as explained above. However, in order for a player to qualify for a medical redshirt, he or she must have missed most of the season due to injury.

Benefits of a Redshirt

There are several benefits to using a redshirt. Most notably, sometimes a freshman straight out of high school is not physically ready to compete at the collegiate level. In these cases, coaches will regularly redshirt that player so he or she can spend the season working on their strength and conditioning. This will allow the player to be much more prepared to compete as a redshirt freshman.

Other times teams will redshirt a player because he or she is simply not needed that season. Why use of a year of that player's eligibility if he or she will rarely see the court or field of play?

Why Redshirting Can Be Bad

Some players may not want to be redshirted because they do not plan on staying in college very long. Some players want to enter the NBA as soon as possible and redshirting that player as a freshman will almost always put their NBA dreams on hold for at least one season.

This is why some high school athletes refuse to commit to a college unless a collegiate coaches ​promise that they will not be redshirted for any reason that's not medical.

Hopefully, ​you now know everything you could have ever imagined knowing about redshirts in college sports, including the benefits and non-benefits of redshirting.

Article updated by Brian Ethridge on 9/7/15.