Conferences Would Bite Their Nose to Spite Their Face with Freshmen Ineligibility

The NCAA is widely considered the big bad beast of ineptness in the realm of college sports. Not only is it trendy to pick on all things governing-body related, it is expected if you care about anything that deals with their fictional ideal of amateurism that you pile on them as often as possible. However, the people within the NCAA are not the only ones to blame, poke and make fun of for all palm-faced moments.

Lately there has been a lot of talk about some conferences kicking around the idea of freshmen ineligibility. Reportedly, the Big 12 as well as the Big Ten would like to go back to the days when incoming players had to sit out a year because, well, they said so.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany and the like will pretend the move would constitute some form of altruism. That they care about the student-athletes. That going back to the dinosaur concept of making kids sit is in service to academics, the integrity of amateurism and/or whatever other nonsense they decide to spew.

The move isn’t being mulled over because leagues are starting to care more about athletes’ educations. If they were honestly concerned about Willie McBallplayer, conference realignment never would have happened. In all seriousness, universities joining whatever conferences they eventually landed in was due to money — that is it. The idea that conferences would force players to travel across the country on a “school night” to play a basketball game, and then scream educational integrity while discussing freshmen ineligibility, is not only laughable; it borders on hypocritical and gosh-slam insane.

As mentioned in another post at The Student Section, one of the more glaring reasons conference commissioners think freshmen ineligibility is a worthwhile venture is that it would force the NBA’s hand. While that answer might suggest that we’re giving them too much credit for thinking outside the box, it would also be one of the riskiest moves ever made by people in charge of free labor. Moreover, maybe calling the NBA, the players’ union, and whatnot would probably be a far safer venture… although attempting to partner with the NBA would be just another step in acknowledging that college sports is a business.

A slightly less likely reason the conference powers-that-be are pursuing this is much simpler: They might be doing this out of spite. They look at folks such as John Calipari, dominating the current system in place, and figure eliminating his ability to lure top recruits will help even the playing field. Then again, just because the Big Ten would do this does not mean the SEC would. I doubt the University of Kentucky would mind fielding four Division I basketball programs, because Calipari already has no problem recruiting the best as it is. Give him even less competition? Oh my.

Regardless of motive, though, the reality that this is even an idea people are kicking around is a scary thing. (How seriously the idea is being kicked around is another discussion.) Really, somewhere between a horror movie where even virgins kick the bucket and watching a YouTube video of a polar bear eating a baby walrus — it’s that kind of scary.

No other walk of life would even entertain doing something like this. A software company would not delay the release of some of its newest — and presumably best — products for whatever reason. Like most businesses, that company would want its very best product available at all times. Having freshmen ineligibility would result in college basketball not having its best product on the floor.

Others will argue with that. They, whoever they are, will claim that freshmen aren’t that great or mature, or that they don’t have enough chemistry with their teammates, which results in some of the poor play on the floor. All of that, however, is a pretty dumb argument. It is not as though incoming freshmen are gaining a whole lot of experience not being able to play the game of basketball at the highest level currently available to them.

One of the other funnier things about all of this is the knee-jerk reaction a move like this actually represents. There are fewer than a dozen one-and-done players each year. When you compare that number to the (roughly) hundreds of incoming freshmen in Division I hoops each year, it is very easy to realize that this move is not being done because of academics, maturity or some similarly false pretense.

It is being done because college conferences are desperate for the NBA to change its current age limit — which would be fine if they actually just admitted that. But, you know, heaven forbid university presidents would finally acknowledge that college sports is big business. They might have to pay somebody — spooky!

As of right now, though, only a few leagues are kicking around this idea anyway. That brings me to an even better place in this weird, stupid story. I hope one or two conferences decide to do this. Just them, however. How the mighty will fall flat on their faces.

Example: The Big Ten alone decides to set forth this new rule. Not only will it result in the league’s better teams and coaches having zero freshmen on their roster each season, it will put them at a distinct disadvantage. While it won’t hurt the Northwesterns of the league, poor Thad Matta will no longer be able to lure tippy-top prospects to Ohio State. Instead, he and the rest of the league will have to bring in lesser prospects because they are less likely to turn pro after one season sitting on the bench for “academics” or whatever.

Mid-majors will eat that up. TopRecruit McGillicutty won’t play for Ohio State because he has pro aspirations and wants to showcase his eligibility ASAP. In comes the Club State Pool Cleaners and a power switch in college hoops.

Again, none of that actually matters, because this idea is pretty poor — that is, even if the sole objective is to attempt to make NBA main-man-in-charge Adam Silver do something he IS ALREADY TRYING TO DO — change the age limit.

Nevertheless, if people in power are desperate to do this, fine. It is not as though the sport is already in its least consumable form on the court or that there aren’t enough good Division I players roaming the Earth as is. The sport of college basketball is already dying for so many other reasons (endgame situations, tempo, flow, etc.). This would just expedite the process. So, yeah, conference commissioners, just put a lesser product on the court — on purpose — for whatever reason. You guys clearly know what’s best.

Right, “one league one champion” creator Big 12?

About Joseph Nardone

Joseph has covered college basketball both (barely) professionally and otherwise for over five years. A Column of Enchantment for Rush The Court on Thursdays and other basketball stuff for The Student Section on other days.