Big Ten Officials Meet To Discuss Freshman Ineligibility

Big Ten faculty, administrators and student-athlete representatives met this week to discuss barring freshman student-athletes from competing in an effort to improve academics in college athletics, and will share a report with other NCAA and conference leaders in advance of the 2016 NCAA National Convention.

The conference unanimously decided to reach out to “a diverse group of thought leaders” to obtain feedback on a number of important areas impacting academics on campus, per a release. The Big Ten will share a report with national leaders inside and outside of college athletics seeking input on year of readiness for all sports, student-athlete time demands, playing seasons, and initial eligibility requirements.

“While we are comfortable generating multiple ideas about an ‘education first’ approach to intercollegiate athletics in the twenty-first century, we won’t go it alone on any of these matters,” Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany said. “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.”

Last week, Maryland’s student newspaper, The Diamondback, obtained a copy of a proposal circulated by Big Ten administrators seeking institutional support for a plan to keep freshmen from competing in men’s basketball and football. According to the Diamondback’s findings, the proposal examines “the imbalance observed in those two sports” and cites that football and men’s basketball student-athletes account for more than 80 percent of academic infraction cases, despite representing less than 19 percent of Division I participants.

While the Big Ten is now officially holding discussions on the subject, this is not the first time a Power 5 conference has seriously considered banning first-year players. The Pac-12 presented a proposal to the NCAA two weeks ago that argued for the return of freshman ineligibility for the first time since 1972 in order to try and eliminate the “one and done” phenomenon that’s happening in major college sports.

As far as Penn State’s opinion, athletic director Sandy Barbour disagreed with the Pac-12’s proposal when asked about it last week. In a radio interview with Steve Jones, Barbour said she doesn’t personally support the idea, claiming it’s “unfair to the kids that do have that ability to take it on.”

“I find it really, really interesting that when you look at the discussion around amateurism, and ‘pay for play,’ image and likeness, and unionization, there isn’t anything there that paying student athletes solves. A paycheck doesn’t solve that,” Barbour said.

“More money doesn’t solve that, but really looking at, ‘Are they prepared when they come to campus, and how much time do they truly have to become students?’ I think gets at the issue,” Barbour added. “Freshman ineligibility is really a flamethrower to get us talking about that.”

The opinions on freshman ineligibility among conference leaders, athletic directors, and student athletes are mixed, so it will be interesting to see how a consensus is reached moving forward. One thing that is for sure is that the discussion, much like the one centered around paying student-athletes, will be heated.

Image: USA Today

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CJ Doon

CJ is a senior journalism major from Long Island and Onward State's Sports Editor. He is a third-generation Penn Stater, and his grandfather wrestled for the university back in the 1930s under coach Charlie “Doc” Speidel. Besides writing, one of his favorite activities is making sea puns. You can follow him on Twitter @CJDoon, and send your best puns to [email protected], just for the halibut.

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