Are Marist Student-Athletes Trying to Go Pro?

Have you ever seen a Marist student in athletic gear on campus and sworn that they graduated? That may very well be the case as many Marist student-athletes stick around for five years. But don’t athletes only take a fifth year if they want to play professionally? Not the case for Marist students.

College athletes worldwide take redshirting as an opportunity to play a fifth year in hopes of getting professional careers. Although Marist is a Division I school, most Marist student-athletes redshirt due to injury or lack of maturity.

Khallid Hart, fifth year senior basketball player, was granted a medical redshirt his freshmen year for a knee injury. He was able to contribute significantly the past three years. In 2015, he was named MAAC Rookie of the Week seven times and MAAC Rookie of the Year. If he has a good year, Mike Ferraro, Sports Information Director, is confident that Hart will have scouts for the NBA or overseas.

Zach Adler, Mike Mangino and Matt Tralli, fifth year seniors on the football team last year, received professional attention with scouts frequently contacting them.

Michael Rios played for Marist football from 2008 to 2012. He played his freshmen, sophomore and junior year, but was injured in the second game of his senior year. Rios was granted a medical redshirt and was able to play a fifth year before signing with the Arizona Cardinals in 2013.

While Rios was able to go professional after redshirting, most Marist student-athletes do not get that opportunity. Within the last decade, only a handful of Marist student-athletes have made it professionally.

Redshirt refers to a year in which a student-athlete does not compete at all against outside competition. The student-athlete can practice with his or her team and attend classes, but cannot participate in any games.

“Most student-athletes are more productive at 22 years old than at 18 years old, so they take [redshirts] as a full year to mature,” said Ferraro.

Ferraro used the examples of football captains James Braun and Marcellus Calhoun, who both redshirted their freshmen year. Both athletes did not appear in any games their freshmen year, played very little their sophomore year, contributed significantly their junior year, voted as captains their senior year and will play a fifth year.

“I didn’t want to waste a year only playing a few plays. By redshirting, I had an entire season to get bigger, stronger, faster and become an overall better football player,” said Braun.

Marist College is in compliance with the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and, thereby, follows all NCAA Rules and Regulations. According to the NCAA, student-athletes that play at a Division I school have five calendar years to play four seasons. The ‘five-year clock’ begins when the student-athlete enrolls as a full-time student at any college and continues if the student transfers or redshirts.

Ferraro explained that, often, Marist coaches will advise their student-athletes to take their redshirt in order to preserve their eligibility for coaches to use them in the future.

In 2003, Ryan Stilphen, men’s basketball player, was 6-foot-8 and 180-pounds. His coaches advised him to take his redshirt for his freshmen year in order for him to go through a weight lifting program. After gaining 30-pounds, Stilphen started his sophomore year and contributed throughout his four years.

“A lot of athletes need the extra year to mature physically and mentally so that they are in a better position to contribute the following year,” Ferraro said.

Juniors on the football team Mike White, quarterback, and Jordyn Jean-Felix, safety, redshirted their freshmen year and led the team to four consecutive wins this year. Both believe that having an extra year to work on their skills allowed them to succeed this year.

With half the team taking redshirts, football is the most common sport for redshirting at Marist. About one-fourth of the men’s lacrosse team also has redshirts, but about half of them are due to injury. Ferraro said that the majority of the student-athletes that redshirt at Marist are forced from season-ending injuries.

The NCAA has a process for giving athletes back seasons that they lose to season-ending injuries. Commonly known as a medical redshirt, a medical hardship waiver is granted to student-athletes that suffer an injury during one of their four seasons or during their senior year of high school. The injury must occur prior to the start of the second half of the season and the student-athlete could not have competed in more than 30 percent of the season games.

“I had elbow surgery, which forced me to medically redshirt my freshmen year, but I am also hoping that an extra year will give me an opportunity to go pro,” said Scott Boches, senior baseball player.

Madeline Blais played for the women’s basketball team from 2012 to 2015 before transferring to the University of Dayton her senior year. She was forced to sit out for one academic year in residence her senior year at Dayton and will play this year as a fifth year senior.

The NCAA transfer regulations require student-athletes to spend one academic year in residence at the school to which they are transferring to before they can play for or receive travel expenses from the new school. One year in academic residence includes two full semesters in a full-time program.

Although many student-athletes redshirt, not all of them take their fifth year mostly because of job offers.

“We had a lot of seniors with red shirts last year, but only four actually took their fifth year,” said James Parady, head football coach.

Joseph Nilan graduated last year after only playing football for three seasons. He said, “I had a once in a lifetime job opportunity so I took that instead of using my redshirt for a fifth year of football.”

Some student-athletes will stay their fifth year in order to fulfill their degree requirements. These students are permitted to walk in graduation as long as they are able to complete their requirements no later than the fall semester following the graduation ceremony.

Ryan Schneider, fifth year senior on the football team. “I know I probably won’t be going pro, but I needed to stay another semester to complete my degree. I redshirted my freshmen year, so this semester I am able to finish my requirements and play another year of football.”

“Most of our student-athletes won’t go pro so this is their last opportunity to play. They want to take that [opportunity] of a fifth year and really enjoy it.” said Ferraro.

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