Nebraska AD supports academics discussion; unsure on frosh eligibility

Nebraska athletic director Shawn Eichorst, in step with other Big Ten administrators, supports a discussion in college athletics to bolster academics, though he's not ready to endorse freshmen ineligibility.

The Big Ten issued a statement Tuesday after its annual joint meetings in Chicago, confirming its circulation of the "White Paper," a memo that details a potential year of readiness that would keep true freshmen from participating in competition.

The league, at this point, supports only a dialogue on the topic and not a legislative proposal.

"More than anything," Eichorst said, "I give the Big Ten a lot of credit for at least stepping up and saying, 'Let's talk about it.' Why not? I've had conversations with people who thought autonomy was never going to happen.

"I'm really interested in something that will help us improve what it is we're doing from an academic perspective."

Nebraska has long been a leader nationally in integrating academics in the athletic arena. It leads the nation with 314 academic All-Americans in all sports and 107 in football. Its five-person delegation, which included Eichorst and chancellor Harvey Perlman, was among the most vocal of any school in the first Division I autonomy session in January at the NCAA convention.

Any proposal on a change to freshman eligibility would go before all of Division I -- not just the Power 5 conferences that make autonomous decisions.

Some Big Ten administrators, including Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke, have more strongly favored freshmen ineligibility. Conversation has also been initiated by leaders in the Big 12 and Pac-12.

Eichorst said he has anecdotally discussed the topic with Nebraska football coach Mike Riley and men's basketball coach Tim Miles.

"For me, it's been thought provoking," Eichorst said, "and I hope we can play a leadership role in the conversation -- and nothing more. I'm supportive of any conversation that helps us advance the ball to center academics and make sure it's the part that we're the most focused on."

Eichorst said he'd like to see analysis of the potential impact on college athletics of freshmen ineligibility.

"How can we get better in areas that will ultimately improve the academic balance without going that far, without going in the direction of a year in readiness?" he said. "Quite frankly, the conversation at this juncture is pretty premature."