Report: Big Ten looking into idea of making freshmen ineligible for competition in football, men’s basketball

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Less than a week after it was reported by Jon Solomon of CBSSports.com that some conference commissioners have been discussing the possibility of making freshmen ineligible for competition, another outlet has reported that the Big Ten is entertaining thoughts of following that path in football and men’s basketball.

According to The Diamondback, the University of Maryland’s student newspaper, the Big Ten has broached the idea of a “mandatory redshirt” that would be geared towards ensuring that freshmen would use their first year of college to get acclimated academically. In the story, Maryland president Wallace D. Loh voiced his support for the idea.

According to the Big Ten, with football and men’s basketball being the lone sports to produce a graduation rate lower than 75 percent those sports would benefit from this move (if it were to occur).

Men’s basketball and football players lag behind other sports in terms of academics, according to data provided in the document. Among the 34 sports listed in the Graduation Success Rate data, football and men’s basketball ranked last in the 2004 to 2007 cohort, according to the document. Among the 38 sports listed in the Academic Progress Rate data from 2009 to 2013, those two sports also ranked last.

The proposal examines “the imbalance observed in those two sports” and cites that football and men’s basketball student-athletes account for less than 19 percent of Division I participants, yet they account for more than 80 percent of academic infraction cases.

There are some issues with this, most notably the idea that football and men’s basketball would be the lone sports subject to this measure. While those in support of freshman ineligibility would likely point to those academic numbers as the reason why, there would likely be a considerable amount of pushback from those who believe that if freshman were to be made ineligible that should be the case for all sports.

And here’s another question to ask: where was this concern for academics during the most recent round of conference realignment? Major conferences, for the most part, have become larger and span more ground than they did in the past. How does that, and the travel time that comes with it, help the “student-athletes” focus on being a student first?

It will be interesting to see where these conversations take college athletics, but making freshmen ineligible for competition may do more harm than good to the bottom line (money) that drove conference realignment.