In 1972, the NCAA finally reversed course on a rule that made freshmen ineligible to compete in football and men's basketball. If a few commissioners of Power 5 conferences get their way, the era of freshmen ineligibility will soon return to address the perceived "one-and-done" problem across college hoops.
It might sound ridiculous, but it's true. Led by Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott, there's a growing sentiment that college basketball could look to bar freshmen from competing in men's basketball. Scott presented the idea last May, and it has growing support from other leaders of major conferences, such as Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.
Jon Solomon detailed what's sure to be a divisive proposal at CBS Sports Friday. Scott and others believe that making freshmen ineligible would help them get better accustomed to college life both academically and socially, while also improving the quality of play across college basketball.
"I've had conversations with several commissioners about (freshman ineligibility)," Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said. "We are pushing, and I think you will see much more serious conversations about it in the coming months and year."
ACC commissioner John Swofford has also thrown his support behind the movement:
"I don't think it's looked upon as radical an idea as it seemed to people five years or 10 years ago because it makes so much sense educationally," Swofford said. "We're in a period now where everybody is trying to get a hold of the student-athlete experience and a recommitment, if you will, to balance academics and athletics."
A freshman has been selected as a No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft the last five years. According to CBS, an average of 10 freshmen have entered the draft since the one-and-done rule came into effect in 2010.
The NBA's age limit has been one of the hottest issues across both college and pro basketball. NBA commissioner Adam Silver has voiced his support of raising the age limit, but new NBAPA leader Michele Roberts doesn't seem willing to play ball:
Michele Roberts on stance on college players coming into the league: "Be happy with one & done, it's not going to be two & done."— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) February 13, 2015
Raised academic standards are already coming to college basketball in 2016. A scholarship athlete will now need a 2.3 GPA in high school to compete. Previously, the bar was set at 2.0.
NBA Age Limit
The relationship between college basketball, the NBA and how to prepare the best 18 and 19 year olds in the world for life as a professional is all very complicated. Many powerful figures around college hoops want the NBA age minimum raised, but is that really what's best for the players? There's also no guarantee the top players would actually go to college when there's big money potentially waiting for them overseas, as Brandon Jennings and Emmanuel Mudiay have showed.
College basketball officials might not like to hear it, but a good portion of interest in their sport comes from people wanting to see the best talent. If that talent chooses to play in the D-League or overseas instead of college, would freshmen ineligibility really have a positive impact on the sport? And would barring freshmen from competition truly accomplish the academic and social goals purportedly behind the rule change?
This a sensitive issue with consequences that would stretch across the basketball landscape. There's still a lot of unknowns here, too. While freshmen ineligibility isn't imminent, it's becoming clear that some of the most influential figures around college sports are in favor of it.