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The Sports Network: FCS considering five years of eligibility

Aug 4, 2011, 3:48 PM EDT

Courtesy of The Sports Network
By:  @seanshapiro

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) – Tim Donnelly has completed one pass in his collegiate career.

It’s a pass that could go down in infamy, not on a national stage, but at least for Donnelly as it may have shortened his college career by a full season.

A sophomore at Delaware last season, Donnelly was supposed to redshirt and save one year of eligibility as the quarterback duties for the Blue Hens were in the more-than-capable hands of Pat Devlin and backup Trevor Sasek.

However, that proved not to be the case.

Leading 41-0 in the ninth game of the season, and Sasek already out with an injury, Delaware coach K.C. Keeler was faced with the difficult decision to leave Devlin in to close out the blowout or burn Donnelly’s redshirt.

Donnelly played 10 snaps, which will limit the quarterback from taking advantage of his redshirt season.

It’s a difficult decision, but it’s one that Colonial Athletic Association commissioner Tom Yeager feels shouldn’t have been an issue, if not for what he believes is the current flawed eligibility system.

The CAA’s solution – which isn’t necessarily a new idea – is to eliminate the redshirt process and give all football players at the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) five years of eligibility.

The legislation, championed through Yeager, has already been submitted to the NCAA and if everything goes according to plan, a fifth year of eligibility could become a reality in time for the 2012 season.

For many at the FCS level, particularly coaches, it would be a welcome change.

“There is no downside. Those kids will do better academically. Injuries will go down dramatically because you’re taking a lot of your starters off of special teams so you can play your younger kids. So (the starters) are taking less hits.” Keeler said. “It makes all the sense in the world that you would give them five years of eligibility.”

As Keeler and others who support the position point out, the proposal for a fifth year presents several potential positive changes that could help improve FCS football.

Many supporters of the idea point to the fact that adding a fifth year of eligibility, and eliminating redshirts, would cut down the number of injuries – especially at the FCS level, where schools can grant 63 scholarships (the FBS level grants 85).

“The big part is that with 63 scholarships if you have a redshirt class and a bunch of guys are out with injuries, it’s not uncommon that the actual amount of healthy players is in the upper 40s,” Yeager said. “What that does is you now have kids who play more when they are injured or hurt later in the season.”

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