Big Ten mulling 'year of readiness'

The Big Ten is seeking feedback from its members about the possibility of making freshman athletes ineligible for competition as they adjust to college life.

In a statement to ESPN.com, the league says it is gauging interest from its members about a "national discussion regarding a year of readiness for student-athletes."

The league has provided background to its members about such a step but has made no official proposal.

"The rules surrounding freshmen ineligibility don't fall within the areas of autonomy, which means either conferences choose to adopt the policy on their own or the legislation is voted on by the entire division," the NCAA said in a statement issued Friday.

The Diamondback, the student newspaper at Maryland, reported Thursday that the Big Ten is circulating a document titled "A Year of Readiness," which explores making freshmen in football and men's basketball ineligible for competition.

Maryland's athletic council met Thursday afternoon to discuss the document, The Diamondback reported.

"If they do well because they spend more time, get more academic advising ... their freshman year, they're going to graduate," Maryland president Wallace Loh told the newspaper. "And I think it's worth spending an extra year of financial support to ensure that they graduate."

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told CBSSports.com last week that he has discussed freshman ineligibility with several commissioners and that there will be "much more serious conversations about it in the coming months and year."

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told CBSSports.com that there's "growing interest" in debating the possibility.

Freshmen were ineligible to compete in all NCAA sports until 1972. Some athletes enrolling for the 2016 academic year will take academic redshirt years as initial eligibility standards increase.

Big Ten football coaches and athletic directors didn't discuss freshman ineligibility at their recent business meeting, but they expect to do so in the coming months. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz told ESPN.com that he favors freshman ineligibility.

"That would be one of the healthiest things we could do for college sports right now," Ferentz said. "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."

Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith doesn't think the freshman-eligibility policy should change based solely on some men's basketball players spending just one year in college before turning pro.

"One-and-done is a small percentage -- it's not even 1 percent of our student-athletes when you take all the schools," Smith told ESPN.com. "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."

One high-profile basketball agent told ESPN.com's Andy Katz that "most of these phenoms don't want to go to school right now and empower the coaches to control their destinies in terms of their roles and development. It's really absurd to even consider.''

Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis offered a counterpoint to that view, saying that college sports need to be more than just a feeder program to the pro leagues but that freshman ineligibility may not be the answer.

"College football and basketball can't just be a minor league system for pro sports,'' Hollis told Katz. "Too many times the focus is on the three or four individuals who are viable for pro sports. It's worth a conversation about what gives them the best opportunity [to graduate], but I'm not defending a move toward freshman ineligibility.''

Information from ESPN.com's Andy Katz contributed to this report.

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Big Ten Considering Ineligibility For Freshmen
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ESPN Big Ten reporter Adam Rittenberg breaks down the possibility of the conference making freshmen athletes ineligible for competition as they adjust to college life.

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