Today’s San Francisco Chronicle features a piece on Stanford Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby’s take on possible NCAA reforms. Bowlsby joins a chorus of athletic directors from around Division I this summer calling for substantial changes to the NCAA rulebook, including scholarships that compensate athletes for the true cost of attendance and stiffer penalties for infractions of NCAA bylaws. Like many university presidents that attended the NCAA retreat last week, Bowlsby also wants APR to determine an institution’s postseason championship eligibility.
His most interesting, and probably least popular, proposal would require a mandatory year of NCAA competition ineligibility for incoming freshmen. Bowlsby told the Chronicle that doing so would help student-athletes on the field of play and in the classroom:
“It would give them the opportunity for getting established on campus, academically and athletically as well,” he said. “It’s academically sound.”
As the Chronicle‘s Tom FitzGerald and Rule of Tree point out, a freshman ban would be a return to mid-20th century rules for the revenue sports. And, although the rule would likely cause all sorts of unforeseen problems–including slowing the development of athletically and emotionally mature players and hastening a mass exodus of NBA-bound players from high school to Europe for a pre-draft year–it sounds reasonable.
The great irony of the story is what the rule would have done to Stanford in one of the department’s most lucrative programs. If freshmen were ineligible for intercollegiate play last academic year, the men’s basketball team would have had just 6 players ready to go on any given night. Gabriel Harris, Josh Owens, Jeremy Green, Jarrett Mann, Jack Trotter and Andrew Zimmerman would have been the only men on the active roster. Andy Brown, a redshirt freshman in 2010-11, sat out the entire year with a knee injury, and the roster’s remaining 8 players–Dwight Powell, Anthony Brown, Aaron Bright, John Huestis, Stefan Nastic, John Gage, Robbie Lemons and Chris Barnum–were freshmen last year (Nastic was a medical redshirt last season and did not play anyway.)
Adjustments would have been made and the ban would not have been implemented immediately, so the program would have added players to fill out the roster. However, without the presence of the promising freshman class both in the starting lineup and off the bench for the Card last year, who knows how much worse a 7-11 conference campaign could have been?