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Redshirt rule: Utah’s Krystkowiak would like to see basketball adopt policy similar to college football’s policy

Ute coach proposes letting athletes play six games before losing a year of eligibility

Utah Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak talks to a referee during a game against the California Golden Bears at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020.
Utah Utes head coach Larry Krystkowiak talks to a referee during a game against the California Golden Bears at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2020.
Ivy Ceballo, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — If Larry Krystkowiak had his way, college basketball would adopt a similar policy to college football when it comes to redshirting players.

In 2018, college football started letting its players participate in up to four games per season without it affecting a player’s eligibility. After playing more than four games, an athlete would use a year of eligibility.

Football coaches far and wide praised the new rule, which allowed them to give young players the opportunity to experience some game action and not lose eligibility.

So why doesn’t college basketball have a similar policy?

That’s what Krystkowiak would like to know.

When asked about it Tuesday, he said the idea was “up my alley” and then expounded on it.

“When you start talking about all sports for some of these policies, I’m confused why you lose an entire year if you’ve played in just one game,” he said. “To me that would be one I would like to be put on the table and I’m going to propose that in the spring meetings.

“We’ve got to get a little bit of a grace period for some guys,” he continued. “Because if you play in one game after the exhibition game, unless you’re injured, you can’t win a waiver to be a redshirt and that’s pretty sad to me because a lot of things can change.”

Krystkowiak suggests players being able to play in six games, which would be about 20% of a typical college season, and less than the 33% number college football allows.

Krystkowiak said he hasn’t had as many redshirts at Utah over the years as he had when he coached at Montana, but has had a few. This year Brendan Wenzel, a 6-foot-6 sharp-shooting guard from San Antonio and Luc Krystkowiak, a 6-4 guard, who happens to be the coach’s son, are both redshirting.

Although the coach didn’t say it, in hindsight, the Utes probably should have redshirted Matt Van Komen, the 7-foot-4 center from Pleasant Grove, who has played sparingly this season behind fellow freshmen centers Branden Carlson and Lahat Thioune, who redshirted last year. Van Komen would have been a perfect candidate for the six-game policy Krystkowiak talked about as he has played in just nine games this season, although all but three were for three minutes or less.

As for Wenzel, Krystkowiak said the decision was a joint one between the Ute staff, the player and his family.

“He’s got a great trigger and a great shooting skill, and he just needs some of what a redshirt year will bring — some toughness and some weight room and getting acclimated to the surroundings,” he said. “So I think it’s super positive.”

Krystkowiak says redshirting is a positive for the player because it shows the school’s interest in his behalf.

“If we weren’t interested in him for the long term, we probably wouldn’t have been talking about redshirt, because it’s an investment from our behalf,” he said.

The Ute coach also knows it’s not easy for players to practice all season without ever getting to play in a game.

“It’s hard,” Krystkowiak said. “My son’s doing that and he said he’s never been involved in a longer season in his life.”

Several Ute standouts over the years have redshirted and gone on to play four years, including Luke Nevill, Jason Washburn, Nick Jacobson and Nate Althoff.

“You get that opportunity to grow up,” Krystkowiak said. “When they’re in the fourth or fifth year of college, it’s sure fun to look back and say, ‘Man, aren’t you glad you redshirted.’”

As for the NCAA proposed plan announced this week to allow athletes to transfer from one year to the next without having to sit out, Krystkowiak wasn’t as bullish.

“If there is indeed a rule change, until something’s official and I have time to digest it and come up with an opinion, it’s probably best for me to stay Switzerland on it and keep my views to myself,” he said. “Each transfer case is always different and there’s winners and losers in a lot of them and as long as we’re thinking about it with an open mind before a decision is made, that’s the key.”