What is redshirting? What is an NCAA Emerging Sport?

June 3, 2024
We’re using the summer break to dive deeper into some of college sports’ most complex topics.
What is redshirting? What is an NCAA Emerging Sport?
Source: NCAA

The GIST: You ask, we answer! Just like last year, we’re using the summer break to dive deeper into some of college sports’ most complex topics. We’ll be putting out a call for your questions later this week, so start brainstorming. For example…

Q: What is redshirting?

A: Redshirting is when an NCAA athlete sits out of competition for a season to avoid using one of their four years of eligibility. If a player wants to build up their skills or recover from an injury, she might redshirt so she can have an “extra” year of low-pressure training with her team (and attend classes on scholarship, if she has one).

  • Medical redshirting is similar: If an athlete is injured in the first half of the season and participates in less than 30% of that season’s games, she can opt out of the rest of the season without using eligibility. Check out this article for more on the types of redshirting.
  • What about athletes who have been around for six or seven (or even eight?!) years? These players often combine a voluntary and/or a medical redshirt year with their bonus COVID-19 eligibility, granted to those whose college careers were interrupted by the pandemic.

Q: What does it mean to be an NCAA “emerging sport?”

A: In response to the Gender Equity Task Force’s recommendations, the NCAA created the Emerging Sports for Women program in 1994 to help schools provide more opportunities for female athletes (and satisfy Title IX requirements) by introducing new sports to the collegiate scene.

  • For a sport to join the program, at least 10 schools must sponsor a team. These squads then compete in temporary limbo — somewhere between club sports and full-fledged NCAA championship–sport status — while campaigning to grow in popularity.
  • To achieve full NCAA status, emerging sports must grow to 40 schools within 10 years (or show significant progress). If they don’t, they could be booted back to club status. RIP archery and squash.

What’s next: The NCAA announced in February that women’s wrestling will graduate from the Emerging Sports program and host its first-ever championship during the winter of the 2025–26 school year, joining rowing, ice hockey, water polo, bowling, and beach volleyball as Emerging Sports success stories.

  • Five other sports are still working their way through the program: equestrian, rugby, triathlon, stunt, and acrobatics & tumbling. May the odds be ever in their favor.