Freshman Ineligibility Is Bad And The Big Ten Should Feel Bad Comment Count

Brian May 20th, 2015 at 11:36 AM


"let's not have that tourney run" –Big Ten ADs [Fuller]

The Big Ten athletic directors have gathered in Illinois to stroke their chins and issue pronouncements about the state of the games. As per usual some of the things they're saying are from space aliens unfamiliar with English. Northwestern's Jim Phillips exhibits a mild version of the affliction. The reporter's paraphrase is the worst bit:

One-and-done play is symptomatic of the problems that plague college athletics, Phillips said at the Big Ten spring meetings, in that it does not benefit the student-athlete at large.

"Frankly speaking," Phillips said, "shame on us. We've allowed the National Basketball Association to dictate what our rules are, or influence what our rules are at the collegiate level."

Phillips said NBA executives "look at us as the minor leagues."

"Nobody feels great about kids going to school for a semester and then leaving," he said. "That's crazy. It's absurd. So we've got to fix it.

"Why have we accepted that? Why have we just allowed that to happen without any pushback?"

I do have some sympathy for the resentment colleges must feel that the NBA has imposed one-and-done on them. It really is the worst possible system for the NCAA, which draws piles of criticism for the way CBB feels right now despite having done nothing.

But as per usual with the NCAA, the proposals on the table to deal with the problem cling tightly to a blinkered image of reality developed by watching "Newsies" 24 hours a day for the last decade. One-and-done does nothing to anyone who's not a one and done. For those who are, the NCAA has no ability to "benefit" them. They're just cooling their heels for a year because they have to before they are very wealthy. One and done is an entirely cosmetic issue. It is an issue, as it leads to things like Kentucky. I find Kentucky under Calipari annoying.

But the Big Ten's freshman ineligibility proposal is the clumsiest possible way to address the situation. It is nuking an anthill from orbit. As John Gasaway mentions, one-and-dones were a mere 14 kids last year.

Mitch McGary is that culture's king. I digress.

The Big Ten is trying to sell us the idea that students are not prepared to enter college, go to class, and compete for its teams at the same time their APR scores look like this.

Big Ten APR Scores (football; basketball)

Illinois: 957; 957
Indiana: 972; 1,000
Iowa: 969; 971
Michigan: 975; 990
Michigan State: 962; 980
Minnesota: 962; 960
Nebraska: 980; 947
Northwestern: 991; 980
Ohio State: 972; 977
Penn State: 954; 964
Purdue: 961; 985
Wisconsin: 989, 975

So which is it? Do you "continue to shine", as this BTN article claims? Or is it dire enough for the Big Ten to want to impose ineligibility on the 95% of their athletes that are just fine thanks?

Part of the problem is that if the NBA does come to the table looking for a reasonable solution (like NHL style draft-and-follow), they're going to hear the most impossible nonsense coming from the other side. No, you can't go to summer league. No, you can't have an agent. No, you can't even go to pre-draft camps to get a more accurate picture of where you stand. We're gonna have a freshman ineligibly snit fit over 14 guys.

The Big Ten has a problem with one-and-done. Fine. But Jim Delany's proposal is unserious. It is never going to happen. Having a "national discussion" is rhetoric on the level of that Nationwide Your Kid Just Died commercial. You can have that discussion. It is going to be about how much you suck and nothing else.

This is a toddler saying "NO, MINE" to someone who can take the toddler's toys away whenever he wants. If the NBA is going to listen, the NCAA is going to have to come to them with a serious proposal instead of a temper tantrum.



May 20th, 2015 at 11:52 AM ^

I should have expected such vapid nonsense from the AD who acted like NW football players were burning down a convent because they dared to organize.  


May 20th, 2015 at 12:04 PM ^

Wouldn't Freshman ineligibility just drive the Okafors & Townes (Russells, Winslows et al too, perhaps) to Europe? I'm always surprised Brandon Jennings is still the only American teen to go that route.

He wouldn't be the only one soon... the question then I guess is do Delaney and the ADs think that's a bad thing?

I don't like 1 & done, but I'd rather watch those players for a year than not. Unless of course this benefits Michigan as we don't get any 1 & dones anyway... then I'm for it!

CRISPed in the DIAG

May 20th, 2015 at 12:49 PM ^

I don't think the AD's or major universities are worried that losing one and done talent will affect their bottom line.  ESPN and CBS will continue to pay top dollar for live sports because it's what is keeping their networks alive.  Regardless of the antiquated (naive?) notion of the STUDENT ATHLETE™, the game is more watchable with guys like Jabari Parker.  But I don't think that matters to the suits.  I just wish they'd be honest about it.


May 20th, 2015 at 12:06 PM ^


“Years ago, I said to the NCAA, I’ve got a great idea,” he said. ‘We’ll insure a select group of basketball players. And that will make them more likely to stay in school, because they won’t feel the loss of a big contract. We’ll designate a pool, and those that are lucky enough to be drafted and make money will pay us back, and those that don’t, it’s our expense. The NCAA I think took it to a committee, that takes it to a census, that took it to a conference, then they have a congress and they came back to me and they said, well, it will only work under our rules if we do that for all sports. And I said, I don’t think that’ll work.”…


May 20th, 2015 at 6:09 PM ^

The NCAA has a program where they'll loan enough to cover premiums on disability insurance for an athlete that is graded first round for NBA/WNBA/MLB, rounds 1-3 for NFL and NHL by the respective draft board and then comes back to school.

I don't know how that works in practice for the NHL and MLB (because of how they structure their drafts), but it's pretty straightforward for football and basketball.


May 20th, 2015 at 12:17 PM ^

As Brian has said before, sometimes people are in the positions they are in because they wear suits and are just *there*.  The men running the B1G fall into that category - just idiots collecting massive paychecks.

I think the 1-and-done rule is dumb, but that's being imposed by the NBA.  The NCAA shouldn't be doing anything else to further restrict how players try to monetize their skills.  


May 20th, 2015 at 12:30 PM ^

the conference guys want to make sure the conference never again gets the commitment of any 4-star or above? Are the coaches alright with that?

Won't the value of the entire BTN go down if all the good players are going to conferences where they can play, and the Big Ten teams are getting killed in bowl games and the OOC schedules?



May 20th, 2015 at 12:54 PM ^

You're only allowed to offer 4 scholarships per year, every year.  That forces each school to have an interest in keeping their players on the right track academically, physically, mentally, etc.  You can still take an NBA prospect, but it means you'll be risking using walk-ons a couple years down the line.  You can accept a grad year transfer, but he better be good to trade his one year of production for 4 years of a HS kid. It would encourage red-shirting the kids who benefit from it. etc.

This would align the interests of athletes and programs to keep kids around for a full undergraduate education, like most real students.

From a practical standpoint, Kentucky won't be Kentucky anymore, and you'll see them have to take more 4-year program guys like Spike, MAAR, etc.  Indiana also won't be Indiana and so on. Every team will operate more like our hero (coach Beilein), drawing in some NBA prospects, but mixing and matching them with program guys.  Character, reliability, academics -- all these things will matter to basketball programs.

There are better solutions out there (from the NBA end), but this is something the NCAA can do on their own to fix it.  The trick is gender equity, but there are ways to make that work with flexible scholarships...


May 20th, 2015 at 2:32 PM ^

You have to offer the same number of athletic scholarships to men and women, so what happens if you lose a guy to injury, NBA, academics, legal problems, etc?  Do you cut a scholarship from a woman's program?  Do you let some programs float from year to year?  Do you offer 4-year scholarship only in revenue-generating sports?

It raises a whole host of questions and it's harder to manage than just haveing a fixed number of one-year scholarships.  But it's manageable and almost certainly preferable to prohibiting freshman from playing.


May 20th, 2015 at 2:37 PM ^

You raise some good points about the gender aspect and I'll be the first to admit I have no idea how the nults and bolts of that work.  However, if UM's men's basketball team has an open scholarship/doesn't use one, does that mean the AD and coaches of the women's sports have to figure out which women's sport is going to 'lose' a scholarship because the men's basketball team isn't using all the scholarships they could?


May 20th, 2015 at 6:43 PM ^

This never happens.  Any and every scholarship gets awarded. Most of them go to recruited scholarship players, with the remainder being awarded to walk-ons.

One major downside to any per-year scholarship scheme is that rewarding walk-ons with scholarships would likely go away.


May 20th, 2015 at 12:54 PM ^

that if a kid needs 2-3 playing years in college in order to develop into an NBA player, then freshman ineligibility means that the kid is in school for 3-4 years, thus earning a degree or only being a short # of credits away from one.

It's stupid of a conference to impose this rule, but maybe not for the NCAA. Take a guy like Darius Morris. He played 2 years and then went to the NBA. If he were forced to sit his freshman year, then he would have 3 years of college (plus summers) complete and would be short maybe a semester's worth of credits. That's a good thing.

I guess the thing is that you have to believe that he would not have sat his freshman year, had the same sophomore year and then jumped to the NBA.

Minus The Houma

May 20th, 2015 at 1:04 PM ^

Are there "one and done" classes out there? Not just easy classes but ones that would benefit the student athlete, allowing the NCAA to help them.

-Managing your millions
-Selecting the right agent for you
-Understand basic contract language


May 20th, 2015 at 1:10 PM ^

Tom I think it's great that someone is finally trying to do something to help this minority group - the "one n dones" - cope with the hardships they'll face during their one semester of college.

Seeking to craft a curriculum explicitly suited to their specific issues... You're a very caring person!


May 20th, 2015 at 1:14 PM ^

I disagree with Brian and while the NCAA may suggest this to trump the NBA policy it is a perfect solution. Why? The individual is present to be a student first and an athlete second. 

Freshman year can be a challenging one and therefore allowing the individual to focus mainly on becoming acclimated to university life can prove beneficial. The individual adapts to the new schedule, new challenges, and changes then begins serious athletic competition.

If this truly benefits the NCAA, I do not see how as the individual is still getting their education paid for via the scholarship. Just my two cents, feel free to poke holes in it.


May 20th, 2015 at 1:30 PM ^

Replace basketball with, say computer science.  Pretend Jahlil Okafor got a full ride at Duke for being a programming protegee in high school.  Now extend your/the B1G's logic to that.  "Jahlil, I know you came to  this school to do computer science, and I know we gave you a full scholarship to do computer science, and I know you have a standing offer from Google to leave here whenever you want and do programming with them, but we want you to spend a year not doing computer science at all.  Freshman year can be a challenging one, and we want you to acclimate yourself to the university life before jumping into your chosen field."


Pretty much anyone would agree banning someone who has declared a major from taking classes in that major as freshman would be a ludicrous proposition, but in essence, that is what freshman ineligability would be; banning someone from training for their chosen career.  And ivory tower rhetoric aside, that is what college is for, training and preparing people to be succesful at their chosen career.  What I'm saying is, let Jahlil Okafor program!


May 20th, 2015 at 1:49 PM ^

I'm not gonna argue at all in favor of freshman ineligibility, but, devil's advocate-style here, freshmen would still be training for their chosen career.  They're lifting and practicing and doing literally everything but playing in the game itself.  It'd hardly be a ban on training.  To use your analogy it'd be more like if the computer science program sent people to programming competitions but only starting with the 200-level classes, while the 100-level classes were reserved for building up the fundamentals.


May 20th, 2015 at 3:10 PM ^

If they're lifting/training/practicing etc, everything but playing in games, what would ineligibility accomplish?  Save them 4 hours a week not attending games that could be put to "acclimating"?  I think ineligibility is stupid, but if it happens, I assume they would do something to actually accomplish their goal of making the transition easier, not keep all the same time and commitment requirements while depriving the kids of the fun part, and the part that can help them showcase their skills.  That would just be unconscionably dumb, and even the NCAA stuffed shirts wouldn't go that far...I think...


May 20th, 2015 at 3:11 PM ^

I could point out that computer science majors have to take two years of general education courses. I wish I was able to take four years of core courses while in school. A better illustration would be Jahlil Okafor is unable to take courses toward a computer science degree because the university is forcing him to play basketball for a year.

However, the point of the university is to educate not to provide athletic competition. Athletics are a nice distraction and provides an opportunity for individuals to earn scholarships but the reason they are in school is to get an education.


May 20th, 2015 at 4:12 PM ^

they're there just to get exposure and leverage their athletic skills into playing professional sports. Are there some who cared about education? Sure, but it's more common that they're in school to further their athletic skills development, not education. 


May 20th, 2015 at 5:55 PM ^

Yet, what is the purpose of the "University of Michigan?" If it is to provide top notch athletics then we need to stop sending these kids to class. The focus should always remain on education and let those talented athletes evaluate whether they would rather attend or not.


May 20th, 2015 at 9:33 PM ^

if you want to be the best in the country, you can't have your cake and eat it. It's extremely difficult to be a school with high academic standard to admit student-athletes while still staying in elite level. This is why I laughed when most said that Michigan has high academic standards for admission because I know for a fact that there are football players that got in with a NCAA minimum standard.


May 20th, 2015 at 4:53 PM ^

I think a lot of this, both at the NCAA level and among fans, is a fundamental disagreement about what college is for.  Some people, and the NCAA likes to at least tout this, believe that the point of college is to get an education.  Others, and I fall into this category, believe that the point of college is to give you the skills, knowledge, and ability to get and succeed at a career (I am for the moment ignoring the social side of school and focusing on the academic).  From that perspective, someone playing basketball at college with the goal of getting the exposure necessary to play in the NBA is no different than someone studying computer science with the goal of getting a job at Google or someone taking pre-med track with the goal of being a surgeon.  And from that perspective, denying student athletes the opportunity, at any grade level, to showcase their skills to potential employers goes directly counter to the school's purpose.  


May 20th, 2015 at 1:34 PM ^

The school is and should always be a tool for the student.  Beyond the responsibilities outlined in the scholarship, a student athlete owes an institution nothing.

If that means that a basketball player's athletic career is his priority over academics, then that should be his choice. This would be true regardless, but it's especially important because college athletics is the only reliably tested path to a professional basketball career.  Whether or not it's considered a good choice by the school or fans should be irrelevent.


May 20th, 2015 at 1:39 PM ^

/Poke Poke Poke Poke Poke

One and dones are still going to be one and dones, but more than likely overseas. I'm not sure why a kid would go to school for a semester just to jump right to the NBA, but there probably would be one or two - It is more likely they just train for a year instead.

THEN there will be a buttload of kids that only play one year instead of two or two years instead of three. I'm not sure how that does anything but seriously damage the athletic programs, even if the focus is meant to be on education first.

FINALLY, it has been said all over within these discussions that the freshmen would still be participating in practices and scrimmages and more than likely attend games. The NCAA would essentially have to ban all "redshirted" players from attending certain meetings/practices or limit their time schedules dedicated to their athletic progression in order to get some sort of academic benefit out of this. And if they do that, how does that help the kid out if his goal is to play in the NBA?  You're limiting the "athlete's" progression and in turn hurting their futures as NBA prospects. This MAY even deter some of them from attending school and push them towards a short-term international career before shooting for the NBA as well; I'm not sure how this helps these kids academically.

The kids that want to be in school will be in school, so they don't need a redshirt year if they have the ability to play and still plan to focus on their academics - Not only will you be hurting these kids but the athletic programs that are in need of immediate help.

More than likely if the NCAA opens this back up, you will probably see the NBA react within a year or two by allowing players to play right out of high school (ala MLB), which will be silmilar to back in the Kobe/Lebron days where there was a flood of kids headed for the NBA before attending a college course. INSTEAD, the flood will be even greater and create an even larger issue because of the "redshirt" year requirement.

These are my thoughts at least.


May 20th, 2015 at 1:22 PM ^

Where is the uproar about freshmen engineering majors who leave after a year to go found a startup in Silicon Valley?  Won't somebody think of the children!


Seriously though, if you look at college for what it really is (an opportunity to position yourself for a career and have some fun along the way), then everyone would realize the early entry/one-and-done thing isn't a problem.  People choose to leave college early, or graduate in 3 years, to jump start their careers all the time, I fail to see why people whose chosen career is sports who do so are somehow destroying society.   In other words,  this is yet another right regular students have that the NCAA is deciding should be denied to student athletes.    See also, in charge of things for no reason.  


May 20th, 2015 at 2:02 PM ^

The NCAA isn't denying players an opportunity to go pro after one year.  The player would still have the ability to decare for the NBA draft after their freshman year.  Not being able to play in games as a true freshman would probably slow their path to the NBA but in the end they'd have the same opportunity as an engineering student - seeking out a job where they'll be paid whenever they feel like it.

Where's the outrage about how college baseball and hockey work?  If you're a baseball player you either have to go pro after your senior year in high school or wait until after 3rd year in college.  That's way more restrictive then what would be imposed on a basketball player.