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What is a grayshirt scholarship offer?

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What is a grayshirt scholarship offer?For the majority of people who follow the recruiting process, it is pretty obvious what a redshirt means for an athlete. A redshirt is basically when a player in the program will play under a certain amount of games so that he or she can get an extra year of development before graduating. As I heard from a parent recently, they would prefer their son playing at the Division I level as a 23 year old as opposed to an 18 year old. There are also medical redshirts where you get hurt but that is a whole different story.

A grayshirt is something totally different. I really cannot say where the name came from but I have heard about these more and more within the last few years. At first, it was something that few schools were willing to try. But as they have been able to be more successful with them, they are using them more and more.

Basically a grayshirt is when an athlete delays his enrollment at his future college so that his eligibility clock will not start ticking until he arrives on campus during the second semester of the year. Football is the only sport that I am aware of that uses grayshirts but it could be used by other fall sports and possibly spring sports as well.

Here is how it would be used. If you were an athlete who signed a National Letter of Intent last week for football, you would be reporting to the school in early August to start the football season. Your eligibility clock of four playing seasons in five total years would start ticking. If you are currently 18, even if you redshirted and played the next four years, you would finish your playing career around the age of 22 or 23 (Depending on birthday and such).

If you decided to grayshirt, what you would do that first semester would be go to a local Junior College and attend classes. The reason you may go to a JC near home is to save money over another, more expensive school. What you would have to do is make sure that you are not taking a full load. If a full load of classes is considering 12 class hours, you would just need to make sure you are taking less than that. As a grayshirt, you would not get to practice with the team, workout with the team, or even eat at team meals. During the first semester, you are not a part of the team.

The reason that you cannot do that stuff is because you want your full time status to start during the second semester. Instead of just being thrown into the wolves during the summer, you can participate in spring practice, get used to classes, and then possibly be able to play in the fall. If you started in the second semester of next year, which would be 2009, you would get that season, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013 to complete your four years of playing. Some prospects do go from being a grayshirt right to being a redshirt so that they would end up being 23 or 24 when they finish.

Schools will grayshirt a player for a few reasons. The first is because they are really high on a player but have a small class or already a number of other prospects being committed. If you were a senior and you grayshirted, your scholarship would count towards the Class of 2009. It is similar to when a prep athlete graduates high school early to participate in spring practice.

Some people can see a grayshirt as a great opportunity while other may disagree. They are being used more and more at the Division I level so don’t be surprised if you start hearing about it more. Here are a few examples of how they have worked out and not worked out over the last few years.

A football player had multiple scholarship offers but wanted to go to the school that he grew up routing for. The school was very low on scholarships that year so they offered him a gray shirt. He ended up accepting it and actually wound up with the school that summer. Because a player left the team unexpectedly, the athlete mentioned received his scholarship. He didn’t even have to grayshirt in the end.

Another player received an offer from a big school during the summer and he committed on the spot. During his senior year of football, he ended up tearing his ACL and has been out for six to eight months. Because he is still out, a grayshirt will allow his knee to recover and give him more time to get back to 100%. Because he is a lineman, the move time may give him a better chance at playing beyond college.

Those are the good stories. There are also bad stories that don’t exactly make a prospect happy.

A lineman committed to a school known for bringing in Junior College players. He ended the recruiting process early and didn’t even look at other schools. When this lineman finally took his visit to the school, they told him they wanted to bring him in as a grayshirt. The commit immediately pulled his commitment from the school and started looking around elsewhere (I will write about this story more later).

The second happened when a big school changed coaching staffs. They had already had a commitment from a talented tight end in-state but this coaching staff was from down south. The commit liked the new coaches but then they started telling him they wanted him to grayshirt, redshirt, and move to center. This commitment bulked at the move because he would be behind his classmates so much. Instead of being in the Class of 2008, he would basically be in the Class of 2010. Since he wanted to go to college to see the field and get an education, he decommitted from that schools and instead picked a Division I-AA school in-state.

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25 Comments so far
  1. Dan Cunningham June 30, 2009

    Can you elaborate more on Grayshirting. My son has two FCS offers but really wants a certain FBS offer. The school a the top of his list has three kids that have given their verbal with likely one more scholarship spot left until they likely bring in the number they are going to for ’10.

    Here’s the thing, my son has a mid-July birthday and my wife won out about starting him early rather than holding him back. So he’s young for his grade. Any idea if coaches consider the age when grayshirting?

  2. [...] For a clarification on exactly what a grayshirt offer is, has a fairy easy-to-understand explanation. Read it here. [...]

  3. yodaknows February 6, 2010

    Gray shirt in coaches speak= a student who DID NOT PASS THE NCAA CLEARINGHOUSE. Why? Did not have grades, a 2.0 gpa Cumulative.
    Gray shirt = lack of GRAY MATTER (Brains), needs to attend a jc during summer/fall to pick-up missing classes, then transfers into 4 year college.

  4. admin February 7, 2010

    That is not the case AT ALL.

  5. [...] year, practicing with team, 4-5 yrs eligibility, the next years numbers for recruits, etc…???? What is a grayshirt scholarship offer? | Recruiting 101 This should tell you most [...]

  6. Jeffery S April 18, 2011

    Is a grey shirt offer binding on the school? Could a school pull the scholarship offer during the fall semester (while the athlete is at a community college) or, even worse, after they have enrolled in the spring semester?

  7. admin April 18, 2011

    You sign paperwork in the winter to be on scholarship for the spring so it is binding. They don’t have to honor it if there is a coaching change in the fall or if they change their mind.

  8. Jeffery S April 18, 2011

    Thanks for your response. Sounds a little dicey, but I can see why they may want to stretch the eligibility of certain players. Would you see them offering a grey shirt for an athlete who is young for their grade?

    Actually, my broader question is whether coaches consider the age of a recruit during the evaluation process.

  9. GBpackers12 January 12, 2012

    actually yadaknows is right, to some degree….My roommate practiced all during fall camp and the day before our first game he was told that he had to “gray shirt” b/c he was missing a class that he needed to pass the NCAA clearinghouse. He was enrolled full-time during the fall and still practiced with the team. The only thing he couldn’t do was dress for games during that season (2006). Kids who Redshirt are allowed to dress for games, just in-case they are needed due to injuries.

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  11. [...] those of you who might not fully understand how a grayshirt works this explains a lot of it – Grayshirt 101). Rickey Galvin, Mansel Simmons, Bobby Ratliff, Gabe Marks, Isiah Myers, Adam West, Brett [...]

  12. [...] Crawford gave Michigan its fifth, or sixth verbal commit (depending upon Brady Pallante‘s grayshirt status).  Though Crawford may be diminutive in stature, he has excellent speed, and tackles with [...]

  13. […] wide receiver/defensive back at Middletown High School and came to Cincinnati as a “grayshirt,” meaning that he sat out the 2012 season before enrolling at UC in January of […]

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  23. […] Grayshirting, for those who don’t know, is when a recruit is asked to delay his enrollment until January, allowing that player’s place on the roster to be used by someone else in the immediate season. The player cannot be a part of the school or team during what would have been their first semester on campus. The student-athlete is essentially not a student-athlete for six months. They can take one or two junior college classes. They can hang out in their parents’ basement. But they, in no uncertain terms, cannot be a part of the team that they just committed to for the next four or five years. […]

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