You heard it here first. Scientists digging deep into the Antarctic ice sheet have discovered NCAA headquarters. Even more amazing, core samples show the NCAA is thawing faster than the frozen shelf, which is saying something, considering the South Pole is plunging into the sea at an alarming pace.

I frequently use this forum to detonate the NCAA for its glacial pace in addressing the needs of athletes. But I also must give credit where it is due. The overseer of college athletics is moving fairly quickly as it adjusts on the fly to changing cultural dynamics.

The latest positive result arrived on Wednesday when the NCAA Division I Council announced a new redshirt rule for Division I football. Instead of coaches playing games with players, the players now just get to play more games. Four more, to be precise.

The current rule: Participating in just one play during the season, even if it’s the last play of the last game, burns a player’s redshirt season and starts the eligibility clock ticking, by which a player gets five years to play four seasons.

New rule (beginning Aug. 1): Players can appear in up to four games in a season without burning their redshirt.

By keeping up with the times, the NCAA has created a win-win for players and coaches, and also opened the door for strategic intrigue.

Players, especially redshirt freshmen, should benefit from the new rule by remaining more engaged during the season. As council chairman Blake James correctly stated, “This change promotes not only fairness for college athletes, but also their health and well-being. Redshirt football student-athletes are more likely to remain engaged with the team, and starters will be less likely to feel pressure to have to play through injuries.”

An engaged player also helps coaches, who often comment how redshirt freshmen can go off the rails with their grades and football duties and personal life when not playing on Saturdays.

Coaches benefit in other ways, too. The four-game rule provides more opportunity to analyze younger players in game situations without worrying about wasting a year of a player’s eligibility.

In practical terms, consider a scenario in which injuries have thinned the starting roster. Instead of needing to protect redshirts from eligibility issues, a coach can address depth concerns by inserting freshmen into the lineup, providing them valuable experience.

Coaches have to be loving this from a strategy standpoint. Say it’s the Michigan game and Ohio State coach Urban Meyer wants to throw something new at the Wolverines (although, given his 6-0 record in The Game, he apparently needs no such wrinkle). He can insert a dynamic freshman who has yet to see the field, just to change things up for a series. A bowl-game appearance by a first-timer would be even more likely.

The new rule also clears some of the murkiness — shadiness? — involved with medical redshirts. Currently, players who appear in less than 30 percent of the season and suffer a season-ending injury are eligible for a medical hardship waiver. Some players, backed by coaches, claim bogus early-season injuries that buy them another season. Such shenanigans no longer are necessary.

Side benefits aside, the core positive is that players get more opportunity to play, which is why former Ohio State coach John Cooper applauds the new rule.

“It’s mostly good for the player, because sometimes those guys don’t get to play, and it’s a long season,” Cooper said. “If a game gets out of control, you can put them in, which is great. If you work hard during the week, you ought to be able to play on Saturday.”

Good job, NCAA. Keep the thaw coming.