The Big Ten Conference may intentionally be going out of its way to lose recruiting battles.
In 1972, the NCAA abolished a rule that made all incoming freshmen ineligible to play for the football or basketball programs. The rule was revoked to help the Marshall Thundering Herd after a tragic plane crash.
But the Big Ten now appears in favor of returning to the old ways.
The Diamondback — the University of Maryland’s student newspaper — reported that the Big Ten Conference is trying to get its institutions to support the potential rule change and start a “national discussion.”
“What I like about the concept of the proposal is it puts right up front the basic issue: Are we basically a quasi-professional activity or primarily an educational activity?” University of Maryland president Wallace Loh told The Diamondback. “And if you support it, you are basically saying very clearly the No. 1 priority is the education of the students.”
The Big Ten Conference wouldn’t confirm the proposal, though:
Per the Big Ten, “no official proposal” on freshman ineligibility. It’s gauging interest from members on “beginning a national discussion.”
— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) February 19, 2015
The B1G is a step behind, because the national discussion already began last week.
One league couldn’t adopt this rule without it negatively affecting its teams. Plenty of top recruits expect to play during their first year on campus. This is particularly important with basketball programs due to one-and-done athletes. As one conference pushes to rule freshmen ineligible, it won’t sit well with some recruits.
“One-and-done is a small percentage, it’s not even one percent of our student-athletes when you take all the schools,” Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith told ESPN.com’s Adam Rittenberg. “That’s way off base to me. Do we have challenges with young people who aren’t really prepared the way they should be to attack college education? No doubt about it.
“I have not been a proponent of freshman ineligibility but I keep my mind open that maybe it’s something we have to consider.”
Recruiting is exactly what at least one league coach is hiding behind as a reason to move forward with the proposal.
“That would be one of the healthiest things we could do for college sports right now,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz told ESPN. “Recruiting’s kind of a runaway train and what a lot of people don’t consider is there’s a lot of serious pressure that’s put on some players’ shoulders that I’m not sure is healthy for them big picture-wise. … It would allow the guy to transition a little bit with a lot less fanfare and get their feet on the ground and get a good foundation established.”
In the end, it’s another step for leagues to maintain control over incoming athletes.
Instead of trying to provide those athletes with the best possible situation based on the individual, one of the country’s most powerful conferences wants to create a blanket rule that applies to all.
At least the NFL hasn’t changed its three-year rule before a player is eligible for the draft. Who knows? That could change too if this becomes more than a “national discussion.”