At first glance, five-star quarterback CJ Carr, who recently made headlines after announcing his commitment to Notre Dame, is just a typical success story of a talented athlete. Upon closer examination, there is something slightly unorthodox about this top-tier play-caller out of Michigan’s Saline High School.
Carr is a 17-year-old high school sophomore who intentionally held himself back for two years, a practice known as “redshirting,” to benefit from the advantages of gaining strength and experience on the gridiron, helping improve his chances for a collegiate athletic scholarship to the program of his choice.
And it worked. Carr, who chose Notre Dame over Georgia, Michigan, LSU and Wisconsin, is currently ranked as the No. 1 player in the state of Michigan and No. 20 overall player in the 2024 class by Rivals, 247Sports and On3, according to Fan Nation. The grandson of former Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr was a huge recruiting coup for the Irish, whose ’24 class is currently ranked No. 2, according to 247 Team Composite.
BREAKING: Elite ’24 QB CJ Carr has Committed to Notre Dame!
The 6’3 195 QB from Saline, MI chose the Fighting Irish over Michigan, Michigan State, Georgia, LSU, and Wisconsin.
— Hayes Fawcett (@Hayesfawcett3) June 9, 2022
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a great story and a huge accomplishment for the young quarterback. During his sophomore season, Carr led Saline High to a 9-1 record, passing for 2,696 yards, 28 touchdowns and four interceptions with a 64% completion rate. As a “holdback,” there is nothing to suggest Carr violated any rules of eligibility. Redshirting before high school (typically between 5th and 8th grades) isn’t anything new, but the practice, which is largely frowned upon by most statewide athletic organizations and school administrators, has received mixed reviews from coaches and analysts.
Doug Rosfeld, director of player development for University of Cincinnati football, told ABC 9 in Cincinnati:
“Strategically delaying a youngster’s grade advancement for the sole purpose of achieving an athletic advantage in middle school seems like a terribly short-sighted decision. If a parent’s ultimate goal in the life of their child is to lead the seventh grade team in scoring, I’m not sure any rational advice will help.”
The Ohio High School Athletic Association is one of numerous statewide interscholastic athletics associations, including organizations in Oregon, New Jersey and Kentucky to name a few, that have installed rules to prevent redshirting.
This is a frequent thing when your hometown’s high school football program has an advanced, decades-long redshirting program and is packed with fifth-year seniors. Go Tigers! SPORTSBALL, baby! pic.twitter.com/B9AInR6bhU
— Super Parliamentarian Spoodle (@DaremstrSpoodle) September 28, 2019
In New Jersey, student athletes are eligible to compete as high school seniors as long as they turn 19 after Sept. 1 of that school year, according to NJ.com. In 2015, New Jersey state legislators passed a bill penalizing redshirting student athletes who repeated grades in middle school to “three years or six consecutive semesters of athletic eligibility once they begin high school — which includes all levels of play: freshman, junior varsity and varsity,” per NJ.com.
The Oregon School Activities Association rulebook limits redshirting with age restrictions, prohibiting any student who turns 19 years old before August 15 from participating in interscholastic competition:
“The objective of the establishment of a maximum age for participation in athletic and scholastic competition is: to discourage students from delaying their education to gain maturity; to prevent over-zealous coaches from engaging in redshirting to gain a competitive advantage; and, to protect the safety of younger, smaller, less experienced athletes.”
Still, under these rules, a 19-year-old high school athlete — a legal adult — is eligible to compete against teams comprised of mostly younger kids, raising real questions of fundamental fairness. I don’t know how I would feel if some hulking man-child was tossing my kid around the football field like a ragdoll just because the parents of a post-pubescent Frankenstein wanted to give their kid a leg-up for college. Perhaps I’m old fashioned.
While some school administrators are vigilant about preventing students from redshirting purely for athletic reasons, if parents want to hold back their child, they can simply transfer to a different school district that will allow their student to enroll. Despite the rules, kids continue to redshirt in grade school without consequence.
Alas, for some, redshirting is the parent’s decision and frankly, none of anyone’s business. After all, coaches and recruiters don’t really care how a student-athlete got there as long as they have the bona fides to win games and elevate their program. Right?
Just ask Mike Farrell, a national football recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, who told NJ.com:
“These parents want what’s best for their kid. That’s their choice. That doesn’t make them horrible people. There are parents out there who have good kids, who have good grades, who have good athletic ability, who they just want to put them in the best position. If holding your kid back gives them a physical advantage and you’re that serious about making your kid a big-time star, you’re only getting rewarded for it. Honestly, it’s a very interesting strategy because (recruiting analysts) don’t care. Colleges don’t care. If you’re a class of 2015 (prospect) and you’re 19 and there’s another 2015 kid who’s 16 — they don’t care.”
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Top Photo by UO Athletics
Jordan is a lifelong Duck fan currently living in San Diego. Jordan graduated from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington, after serving a prestigious fellowship with the Washington State House of Representatives. Upon graduation, he worked as an English language teaching assistant for the Spanish Ministry of Education’s Ambassadorial Program in Monforte de Lemos, Spain. Jordan has worked as a journalist, writer, and editor in Oregon, Washington, Montana, and California, covering a wide range of topics, including sports, local politics, and crime. He is VERY excited to be writing about his beloved Oregon Ducks.
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