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My Column: Jim Delany, It's Time To Stop Campaigning For Freshmen Ineligibility

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It's time for Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany to stop his tireless campaign to prevent freshmen from playing at the collegiate level.

Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

It's time for Jim Delany to stop.  Over the past month or so, Big Ten Comissioner Jim Delany has repeatedly discussed his ideas for collegiate sports and in particular, his proposal to make freshmen ineligible during their first season.  Delany's argument is premised on the concept that collegiate athletics are becoming too focused on the athletics and not focused enough on academics.

To be honest, this is an editorial piece I have delayed writing for quite some time.  When I first heard about Delany discussing freshmen ineligiblity, I figured it was a publicilty stunt to show that the Big Ten was focused on academics.  I figured that nothing serious would ever come of Delany's comments and that he was simply throwing a few scraps to those trying to defend the NCAA's current model against critics.

Unfortunately, I was dead wrong about Delany's intentions.  These weren't comments to solely to appeal to public relations or to feed the egos of those arguing for the Big Ten's academic superiority.  These were ideas that he legitimately believed in and things that he was going to push through the national media.

Despite his views, it's time for Jim Delany to stop.

There are ton of issues with today's NCAA.  Whether it's the incredible inequity between athletic departments and the athletes, the lack of a distinction between revenue and non-revenue sports, or the incredibly complicated rule book, there are plenty of things that could and likely should be addressed in the coming years.  Unfortunately, Delany's concern about freshmen eligibility not only pales in comparison to the majority of these issues, but his plan also stands to have a negative impact on teams and players.

For a case study, let's take a look at the Big Ten during the 2014-15 basketball season.  Over the course of the season, the conference put seven teams in the NCAA Tournament and one team in the NIT.  Both Michigan State and Wisconsin made the Final Four with the Badgers falling short in the title game.  Wisconsin was led by multiple upperclassmen, but the freshmen impact for the conference was significant.  Just take a look.

Freshmen Contributions for Big Ten Postseason Teams:

B1G Tourney Teams

Freshmen With 75% of Mins

Freshmen With 50% of Mins

Freshmen With 25% of Mins

Illinois

0

0

1

Indiana

1

2

2

Iowa

0

0

0

Maryland

1

1

4

Michigan State

0

0

2

Ohio State

1

2

2

Purdue

0

1

4

Wisconsin

0

0

0


Objectively speaking, these are all the quality teams in the Big Ten last season and all of them except Iowa and Wisconsin had at least one freshman in their rotation and most had at least one significant contributor on their roster.  There would certainly be a lot of different factors to weigh in if freshmen were deemed to be ineligible, but the fact is that there were plenty of freshmen that the coaches thought were ready to play last season and contributed significantly for quality teams.

As such, it's pretty easy to conclude that this proposal would be a hit to every team in the Big Ten.  If a coach has a player on his roster, but can't play them simply because they are a first year student, this is a disadvantage.  Even though not every team this season relied on freshmen significantly, it will happen at some point.  Look at Ohio State.  By season's end, they had two freshmen starters and made the Round of 32 in the Tourney.  If D'Angelo Russell and Jae'Sean Tate aren't there, Ohio State probably isn't an NCAA Tournament team as the field sits right now.  Things would certainly differ if the plan was instituted nationwide, but the Buckeyes would have undeniably taken a hit.

This plan also would represent a hit for the players.  In theory, the players would get a year to get comfortable with college and focus on their academics, but is that really that accurate?  To start, it's not as if the players won't have practice just because they are ineligible.  They will be on the scout team and do pretty much everything all the other players do except dress for games and travel with the team.  There would be some extra time there, but you have to question the extent of this additional time.

The other thing is that you risk losing elite talent.  Why would a potential NBA Lottery pick go to college to sit on the bench for a year?  They'll either go to another conference or go overseas.  Your major 5-star prospects are going to be focused on getting to the NBA no matter how much you want them to focus on school.  It's just reality and it's hard to argue how the Big Ten gets better players with the best recruits going elsewhere.

"Delany and company need to stop trying to use a bucket to get water out of their sinking ship and simply come to the realization that they need a new ship altogether."-Thomas Beindit

Another - and perhaps the most significant - hit to the players is that they would be losing something they enjoy.  Players spend countless hours in the gym, reviewing tape, and preparing themselves for the season.  Essentially, with this move, the Big Ten and/or NCAA would be telling freshmen that although they put in the same work and just about identical time as the older players, they wouldn't actually get the reward of playing simply due to their age.  Freshman year is often the toughest for most students academically, but have a player still practice, but no longer dress or practice with the team and removing his incentive to play doesn't seem to be very player-friendly.

Let's face it, in reality, this proposal would simply be a tool to help the Big Ten and NCAA preserve a system that benefits administrators more than players.  Delany has voiced concern that if the NCAA can't defend education, it is a "house of cards" waiting to fall.  Perhaps the real issue here is that the administrators support a system that compares to a house of cards in the first place, instead of one that looks out for the best interests of teams and players.  It's a plan disguised to benefit players while really benefiting those proposing it.

The NCAA has been under harsh criticism for years and Delany's proposal is just the latest in a long line that doesn't seek to rectify the real issues at play, but rather to strengthen the NCAA's grip on an old and outdated model for college athletics.  Delany and company need to stop trying to use a bucket to get water out of their sinking ship and simply come to the realization that they need a new ship altogether.

Jim Delany has done a lot of great things for the Big Ten.  Whether it was the additions of Nebraska and Penn State or the start of the Big Ten Network, he has helped lead the conference in some great moments.  Unfortunately, his recent support of freshmen ineligibility is not one of them.

The time has come.  It's time for Jim Delany to stop his freshmen ineligibility campaign.