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Freshmen should be forced to make academics priority # 1

Imagine if Palomar athletes like Jeremy Franklin (men’s basketball), Davante O’Roy (football) or Keisha Cox (women’s basketball) had been able to go directly into the pros after their 18th birthday. Would Palomar’s teams had been as successful?

If the Big Ten Conference gets its way and it becomes more of a national issue, these athletes wouldn’t be eligible to leave college until at least their 20th birthday (or in the case of O’Roy, 21 due to NFL restrictions on graduating classes).

This doesn’t seem like a big deal to the non student-athlete. But if you are someone like Duke University center Jahlil Okafor, or many potential “one-and-doners” (the basketball athlete who goes to school for one year to only turn pro the following year), this would seem like an unfair shake.

Being a major sports fan myself, and especially a basketball fan, I think that this is a good idea. I have no issue with anyone trying to get paid, don’t get me wrong. But if you’re not mentally or physically prepared to play a grown man’s game, you shouldn’t be rushing to get there.

In a document procured by The Diamondback (University of Maryland’s independent student newspaper), titled, “A Year of Readiness,” the Big Ten discusses the possibility of making freshmen ineligible for football and men’s basketball.

The reason, according to the document, is that “men’s basketball and football lag behind in other sports in terms of academics. Among the 38 sports listed in the Academic Progress Rate data from 2009 to 2013, these two sports ranked last.”

The document also states that while football and men’s basketball only account for less than 19 percent of NCAA Division I participants, they account for more than 80 percent of academic infraction cases.

Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner John Swofford, one of the supporters of this proposal, said he thinks it would be beneficial for the prospective student-athlete.

“I don’t think it’s looked upon as radical an idea as it seemed to people five years or 10 years ago because it makes so much sense educationally,” Swofford said in an interview with CBS Sports. “We’re in a period now where everybody is trying to get a hold of the student-athlete experience and a recommitment, if you will, to balance academics and athletics.”

The issue of being able to balance academics and athletics has been an issue for quite some time. In fact, until 1972, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), used to bar freshmen from athletic activity. This has become more of a hot topic today, with people like Swofford, Big Ten commissioner James E. Delany, and even NBA commissioner Adam Silver supporting what would be a reconsidered age restriction.

To some people, this is seen as a knee-jerk response to the “one-and-done” rule, which allows men’s basketball players to leave college for the pros after their freshman year of college. For football, athletes are not allowed to declare themselves for the NFL until after their third year of graduation from high school.

Ohio State University Athletic Director Gene Smith, who is a part of the Big Ten, has expressed concern about basing freshman eligibility on some basketball stars staying just one year in college before turning pro.

“One-and-done is a small percentage – it’s not even one percent of our student-athletes when you take all the schools,” Smith said in an interview with

“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.”

Which is why Silver believes a higher age limit is essential for an athlete’s development. In a 2014 interview with USA Today, he talked about how he thought the age limit would be beneficial for his league.

“It has been our sense for a long time that our draft (the NBA Draft, held annually every June) would be more competitive if our teams had an opportunity to see these players play an additional year,” Silver said.

“I believe strong college basketball is also beneficial for the NBA and to the game generally. So even if it’s not terrible for the NBA right now, at least, talking to a lot of my college coaching friends … their view is (that) one and done is a disaster,” he added.

At the end of the day, it all speaks to the bigger picture looming for athletes and colleges. If players stay longer, they have a better chance at graduating. Sure, you have your exceptions (Kevin Durant, Anthony Davis, etc.), but for every exception you have your cases like Daniel Orton and Marquis Teague. Orton and Teague, both talented players who left after their freshman years of college, have been bouncing back and forth across the globe looking for a permanent place to play since they left the University of Kentucky in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

I believe that a steady paycheck is important to one’s survival. But if you don’t have a good education to back it up, then that paycheck is worthless.

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