The Big Ten will reach out to "a diverse group of thought leaders" for feedback on its new "year of readiness" idea, the conference announced in a release Tuesday. If proposed, such a plan could make freshman athletes ineligible for competition during their first year on campus.
Several Division I coaches have spoken out on the debate, including two from the Big Ten. Ohio State basketball coach Thad Matta said the idea has already led to negative recruiting from opponents and that "it's not going to happen." Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz called the idea "one of the healthiest things we could do for college sports right now."
Either way, the Big Ten will not go forward with this by itself.
"While we are comfortable generating multiple ideas about an ‘education first' approach to intercollegiate athletics in the 21st century, we won't go it alone on any of these matters," said Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany. "We look forward to working with our colleagues in the NCAA Division I governance structure, and to exploring a broad exchange of ideas from both inside and outside of intercollegiate athletics."
Commissioners from the Pac-12, ACC and Big 12 are reportedly considering a ban on freshmen, specifically in football and men's basketball. This idea arrives even though the NCAA's new academic standards (scheduled to begin with the 2016 freshmen) have not even begun, let alone examined.
Beyond concerns of the on-field product, there are social implications to the conference's potential proposal. The NCAA has to tread lightly if it decides to move forward, especially with how it relates to the two major sports, as Testudo Times' Alex Kirshner writes:
"If the NCAA penalized freshmen football and men's basketball players for not performing in the classroom, some might see it as robbing athletes of a healthy outlet -- and as disproportionately targeting black players by zeroing in on two of the only black-majority sports. It would also lump all freshman players into the same academic group, whether they're ready for the educational rigors of higher education or not."
Here's a better idea -- just get rid of redshirting, allowing athletes to stay in school (and play) for five years. If the NCAA does decide to make freshman ineligible instead, we've got some ideas for how coaches, athletic directors, school presidents and conference commissioners can make sure their focus is on academics, as well.