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The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

The student news site of the University of Northern Iowa

Northern Iowan

Power 5 conference talk of freshman ineligibility in basketball

rue Freshman Ineligibility Discussions in NCAA 

“He’s a freshman! *claps* he’s a freshman! *claps* He’s a freshman! *claps.*”  One of the best student section chants in college basketball, but what if this was no longer a thing? What if we are done with “one-and-done?” It is crazy to think about but recently there have been discussions around multiple conferences in the NCAA to go back to making freshman ineligible with the Big Ten leading the charge.

The rule was changed in 1972, allowing the young guns to compete right as they enter college. This greatly impacted the game and is what we have come to know and love as fans. One problem in college ball has been the mixture of athletes giving it their heart and soul to win their school championships and others only playing as a stepping stone to go make millions professionally.

 The goal for this potential rule change of the NCAA would be to force these college players to stay in school longer and put more of an emphasis on their education. Colleges are becoming frustrated with certain schools just becoming “feeder systems” to the NBA. Meaning that the college athletes have no interest or desire in their academics and are only in school to gain draft eligibility. Once they become eligible they jump at the chance to go pro and start earning a paycheck. Let’s be honest, both sides make valid points. 

You can’t blame these young athletes for wanting to go on to compete at the highest level and make a lot of money doing so. Some just don’t want to risk injury and eliminate their hopes of being drafted. As for the college’s perspective, they feel like they’re just being used and that their educational values are not taken seriously. They are giving out scholarships to start athletes who only put in the bare minimum effort until they are free to move onto where they truly want to be.  

As the rule stands right now, the NBA requires an athlete to be at least 19 years old and be one year removed from high school to be eligible for the draft. This has been the case since the 2006 draft to prevent people entering straight from high school like LeBron James or Kobe Bryant did. 

The NCAA would like to see this age requirement raised to eliminate the feeder system.  Even NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he would like the age requirement raised to 20. It is the NBA union that opposes this for obvious reasons; they want the star athletes as soon as they can get them. If the NCAA went through with the freshman ineligibility rule, they would be making it clear they expect their student athletes to value their education more and stay in school longer. 

Personally, I am completely against bringing back freshman ineligibility. I am all for the young athletes valuing academics, but if you are good enough to play, you should play. It is as simple as that. It wouldn’t make any sense to have one of your best players sitting on the sidelines watching when they could be impacting the game on the court. Just think about this season, imagine Duke’s Kahlil Okafor and Tyrus Jones or Maryland’s Melo Trimble sitting on the bench every game. Part of me would be feeling cheated that we are not getting the best college hoops has to offer. Not to mention, there is just something special about true freshman making big plays in critical games that gives the sport an extra element of excitement. 

A freshman ineligibility policy would affect some programs more than others but would ultimately greatly impact all of college basketball. Kentucky is definitely a program that comes to mind when we talk about feeder systems. Coach Calipari and the Wildcats are notorious for getting the top high school recruits each year and loading up with freshman talent. Interestingly enough, Calipari’s system has worked beautifully considering the Wildcats have yet to lose a game this season. After the season, a majority of the players end up leaving after only a year or two and move on to the NBA. However, it is not just Kentucky, a lot of power conference schools deal with this. 

We also must consider March Madness. A month full of Cinderella mid-major teams making deep tournament runs, powerhouse schools getting knocked off early and a lot games that make you want to rip your bracket to shreds because of unpredictable outcomes.  

Currently, UNI and the rest of the MVC teams can always count on their guys to give their program a solid four years, which is one reason the more experienced teams in the conference are so dangerous. Look at our Panthers, ranked 10th nationally and our rival Shockers ranked 11th. Both teams have a lot of experience and upper classmen leadership that can potentially carry their teams deep in the NCAA tournament. 

If college basketball transitions into a league where it is a lot more common for student athletes to stick around their schools longer, than that means the talent at this level will be a lot higher. This may limit the amount of upsets that take place in “the big dance” because the power conference schools will be stacked with both experience and talent and will prove to be tougher for some of the smaller schools to compete. 

So I don’t think a change in NCAA basketball is needed. It is great the way it is. Also, the young athletes deserve the right to decide what is best for them and their family, whether that be going pro or staying in college. So let’s enjoy the game in it’s purest form, with freshman in the lineup, as long as they deserve a spot.






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