March 8, 2002
By Brent Courtright
WSU Sports Information
Redshirting and grayshirting. Are these new ways to show your Cougar Pride? Not really. A new trend has started in college football recruiting. Instead of underclassmen leaving school early, they're staying longer.
The plan is called grayshirting and it began as a way to accommodate student-athletes who needed additional physical development or more concentrated study time to score well on SAT or ACT tests. Once the student-athlete has met the NCAA eligibility requirements, including a minimum SAT or ACT score, they can enroll at a Division I school and compete athletically.
"It helped me out because I got to sit around and see what life is about outside high school," said Charles Harris, who enrolled at Washington State in mid-January. "I got to spend about seven months working and found out I really didn't like it that much. I gained about 15 pounds over that time, which helped and is going to help me in the future."
Harris is a 6-foot-6, defensive linemen from Mead High in Spokane, Wash. He is currently listed at 265 pounds.
In cases that involve grayshirting, student-athletes sit out for a semester or one or two quarters, depending on the university's academic system.
When rulings on limiting the number of football scholarships awarded came about in the early '90s, coaches sought out ways to deal with this hardship. Grayshirting provides more opportunities to comply with the maximum number of 25 scholarships a year and 85 overall.
"I had time to tie up loose ends," said Josh Swogger, fellow grayshirt recruit. "I helped coach my high school team, which gave me get a different perspective of the game. I spent some time with my family, my girlfriend, hanging out with friends, lifted (weights) and I worked with my dad."
"It will help me out when I have spring ball under my belt and if I redshirt next year, because that will give me one and a half years before I actually start my career," added Swogger, a 6-foot-5, 242-pound quarterback and former Ohio High School Player of the Year.
Coming from Ohio, I really didn't know much about Washington State, except the (1997-98) season when they went to the Rose Bowl. This past season, sitting out, I got a chance to watch the games, get on the website and I learned a little bit more about WSU."
Swogger and Harris were two of three grayshirts who are in the 2001 football recruiting class. The other grayshirt, Troy Bienemann, worked as a customer service clerk at a Pullman grocery store during the fall while recovering from an arm injury suffered before he arrived at WSU.
Both athletes mentioned college course work is more challenging than their high school classes, but they do not have to deal with double day practices before classes are in session and then balancing practices and classes like recruits who enrolled in the fall.
"The University helped me out and tried to ease me into college life and college academia," said Swogger. "It is hard coming in later and trying to make new friends because they (other athletes) already have their own set groups."
Neither recruit has had too hard a time making friends since there is plenty of time to socialize with other teammates while attending team workouts in the morning and evening this spring.
"My class will really be this next year's recruiting class so I will be able to know two recruiting classes well which is cool," Harris added.
Harris had some important advice for future grayshirts.
"Spend a lot of time in the weightroom, try to prepare yourself, run, really push yourself because once you get here it is harder than you think it's going to be. Don't spend your time messing around."
"Follow the off-season workouts and just do whatever they tell you to do," added Swogger.
Grayshirt recruits are allowed to receive playbooks, but cannot practice, unlike enrolled redshirt players, but it is recommended that they do stay in touch with coaches. The major difference between grayshirting and redshirting is grayshirt student-athletes cannot attend their chosen school fulltime (12 credit hours or more). However they still can redshirt once the have enrolled full time.
"It's like a five and a half year plan," said Swogger.
As for future plans of both athletes neither one was certain whether they would stick around for their senior season if given the chance to advance to the next (professional) level. But for now, they are trying to concentrate on the upcoming spring drills.
"After we get done with spring ball, I will have a really big advantage compared to the guys coming in next fall," said Harris. "Just watching last season, the future is going to be good for the school and hopefully I will be a part of that."
"I'm a little more anxious to come out (for football) now than I think I would have been had I came out here in the summer," said Swogger.
"I think it is going to give me a really good opportunity to be a great player here at Washington State," said Harris. It is going to help me become what I want to be as a student-athlete."