The Big Ten Conference is flirting with the idea of making freshmen athletes ineligible for competition in the moneymaking sports of football and men’s basketball.
No official proposal has been made yet, but it could come soon if other conferences around the country take on this idea.
However, there is growing interest in the nation for the idea of keeping freshmen ineligible for competition.
The idea behind the move is it would help student-athletes graduate, as opposed to leaving early to become professional athletes.
Freshmen were ineligible to compete in all NCAA sports until 1972.
Since then, rules have gradually changed.
At one time allowing players to declare for the draft whenever they chose and, at another, putting rules in place that said when players could declare.
The current rules allow a student-athlete in football to declare for the NFL draft after three years and the NBA after one year, whereas baseball athletes can declare for the MLB draft out of high school.
The MLB has minor leagues to help develop players drafted out of high school, the NBA has the Developmental-League, but the NFL’s only developmental system is college football.
This idea is not about student-athlete development; it’s supposed to be about athletes graduating.
Despite recent trouble the NCAA has faced for marketing its athletes and not compensating them, this doesn’t seem like a cash grab, but again, the NCAA’s hands have not been clean.
If it is truly about increasing graduation, then it is a good thing, and I’m for it.
However, keeping students out one year doesn’t necessarily mean they will stay in college all four years.
Because football players cannot declare for the draft until they’ve been in school for three years, the only sport I see this hurting is basketball.
While the list is small, most players who reach the NBA are the one-and-done types who only play their freshman year.
Looking at the 2014 NBA draft, nine of 30 players taken in the first round of the draft were freshman, with six coming in the first nine picks.
However, if a rule is put in place that would force players to sit out their freshman year, they could play in leagues overseas because there’s not a rule saying they can’t.
Schools such as the University of Kentucky would be hurt tremendously if this rule goes into effect because it is the primary place of one-and-done basketball athletes.
Mid-major schools would not be hurt as much because they usually don’t feel the effects of student-athletes declaring for the draft before finishing all four years.
Looking closer to home, this year’s UCA men’s basketball team would have had a hard time finding eligibility because it features eight freshman, which makes up much of the roster.
The current roster features 14 players, but with junior forward Justin Foreman and junior guard Jeff Lowery out because of transfer rules, UCA would only have four players.
The Bears’ starting lineup in the Feb. 21 matchup against Sam Houston State University Bearkats featured three freshmen.
At the end of the day, the NCAA is a business, and it needs to make money.
The association would still make money, but I wonder what kind of hit it would take if this were to pass.
It’s not hard to see that the NCAA has grown tremendously since 1972 with the emergence of cable and satellite television, so causing freshmen athletes to sit out a season would hurt because of the potential loss of money.
If this rule were to pass, schools would basically be redshirting every freshman athlete who steps on campus. This begs the question, how would redshirting work, then?
A team can have as many redshirts as it wants as long as roster requirements are met.
Would men’s basketball coach Russ Pennell redshirt the team’s eight freshmen and hold some players over from last year’s team to make up the difference?
Either way, if this rule had went through prior to this season, the NBA and college basketball would look a lot different.
I also think national signing day wouldn’t be as big.
Several factors could make this difficult.
I like that people are putting education first, however, student-athletes’ destinies should not be controlled by people who don’t know them.