Big Ten Pushing to Make Freshman Ineligible


According to an article on ESPN on Thursday night, the Big Ten is considering the idea of making freshmen athletes ineligible for competition in football and men’s basketball as they adjust to the life as a college student.

The conference is said to be gauging interest from its members around the idea of student readiness on a national scale.

The Big Ten is circling a document around to its member institutions, entitled “A Year of Readiness”, to provide schools and programs with the necessary background information needed to make a decision. Note that this is merely a step in the process, and no proposal has been made yet about the situation.

It’s also worth noting that the Pac-12 and the Big 12 have also expressed interest in this area. 

Freshmen weren’t eligible to participate in any NCAA sports until 1972, and it’s now tough to imagine college sports without freshmen participating. Especially in college basketball, freshmen play a big role in the game. For example, the Tennessee State Tigers have six freshmen on their roster this season, and only one senior. If freshmen weren’t eligible to play, the Tigers would have a hard time competing on a nightly basis.

However, in the article posted by ESPN (which can be found here), Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith doesn’t think the freshmen eligibility issue should change.

At College Court Report, we have our initial opinions on the topic of making freshmen ineligible, and through discussions with colleagues and basketball/sport fans alike, we can see the situation from both sides.

From the side of the institutions and the NCAA as a whole, making freshmen ineligible puts the athlete’s health at the forefront, which is the most important issue. Adjusting to the life of a college student can be hard, and throwing the added pressures of performing at a high level night in and night out with athletics may not be the best thing for athletes in their first year in their new home. By making students stay at least two years at school for the chance to play basketball at the NCAA level may make more students stay at school, as opposed to opting for the ‘one-and-done’ route. If a player ever suffers a serious injury early in their career and is unable to continue playing basketball, leaving early doesn’t give them a degree which they can later use in life to get a job if basketball doesn’t pan out.

I use former Baylor center Isaiah Austin as an example. He left Baylor early for the NBA Draft, only to discover that he had Marfan Syndrome just days before the draft. Now, this was out of his hands, and was not an injury that he suffered in a game, so I guess that it may be a bad example. But what if he did make it to the NBA and suffered a career-ending injury in his first year of competition? He’d have no degree to fall back on.

His story touched millions on millions of people, and I was one of the people to buy a “Dream Again” t-shirt in support of his foundation. Baylor was more than willing to let Austin go back and finish his degree, and  the NBA welcomed him with open arms.

On the flip side, not allowing freshmen to compete could be very bad financially for the schools, and bad for the game of basketball at the NCAA level as a whole. Could you imagine college basketball this season without the likes of Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones, Stanley Johnson, Kentucky’s plethora of freshmen, and others not participating? I don’t think so. These players are the premiere draws for their respective programs, both at home and on the road. Mind you, the bigger programs would survive without freshmen playing, but the smaller programs would find it harder to attract a large crowd night in and night out.

If this becomes the case, I fear that we would see more players pass on the NCAA and go play overseas, much like Emmanual Mudiay did when he spurned SMU to go play over in China. While some may not see it as the best option for their careers, it gives them the opportunity to play right away, and would hinder the NCAA severely.

Those are our quick thought on the issue at hand. What do you all think? Comment below, or join us in the conversation on social media to let us know your thoughts!

– T.B.