Mark Emmert: Freshman ineligibility 'worthy of debate'

NEW YORK -- NCAA president Mark Emmert is glad the Big Ten has sparked a discussion about freshman ineligibility, even though it is an idea fraught with potential pitfalls.

Emmert spoke at a meeting of the Associated Press Sports Editors on Thursday. He said the NCAA helped Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany with the conference's recent white paper on a so-called year of readiness for freshman football and men's basketball players.

"It's a really interesting notion that's worthy of debate," Emmert said. "It has all kinds of problems. It is highly controversial."

However, Emmert said freshman ineligibility could be a way to aid student-athletes who enter college lagging behind the rest of the student body academically.

"The real question we need to address: Are students sufficiently serious about being students as well as athletes, and are they sufficiently prepared to be successful as a student as well as an athlete?" Emmert said.

Delany first pitched the idea of a year of readiness in February. He followed up last week with a white paper outlining a plan to make football and men's basketball players sit out their freshman seasons without losing a year of eligibility.

The chances of Delany's idea becoming a reality are slim. He has acknowledged that the Big Ten could not implement freshman ineligibility alone, and no other commissioner has come out in favor of his plan. All have acknowledged that some form of freshman ineligibility, possibly targeting athletes who fail to meet certain academic standards, could be useful.

In 2016, new increased qualifying standards go into effect that could cause some athletes to take an academic redshirt.

"We, the membership, do need to figure out how to fix that problem because we have too many kids coming in who are at a very big academic competitive [dis]advantage and how do we help them?" Emmert said. "How do we help this young man, this young woman be successful in college because that's going to change their life.

"There's a lot of work to be done there."

Emmert said the freshman ineligibility discussion has nothing to do with stopping one-and-done in men's college basketball.

"That would be a sledgehammer on a mosquito," he said. "Because one-and-done in any given year there's maybe 10 of them, 12 of them? Is one-and-done an issue? Yes. You would never ever want to do freshman ineligibility to deal with one-and-done."

The NBA age limit stopped teams from drafting players out of high school and has led to some elite players spending only one season in college and barely a full academic year as a student.

Emmert said he would like to see more paths to pro leagues for developing athletes.

"A young man or woman shouldn't have to go to college to become a professional athlete," he said.

Emmert also weighed in on the debate over football coaches taking part in camps away from their own campuses, often far away. Michigan was the latest school to make news with so-called satellite camps. Coach Jim Harbaugh announced last week plans for him and his staff to be guest coaches at camps in Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania and other recruiting hotbeds.

The SEC prohibits its coaches from guest coaching at camps far from their own campuses, and the league's coaches are not happy about Big Ten schools encroaching on their territory.

Incoming SEC commissioner Greg Sankey has said he believes the NCAA needs to step in and determine where coaches can hold camps.

Emmert agreed the camp issue should be dealt with by the NCAA Football Oversight Committee, headed by Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby.

"It will certainly be on the top of their list," Emmert said. "Whether they throw the gates open or whether they close it down will be their call. Having different rules in different places, that's a de facto decision. If one or more conferences is doing it, then it seems inevitable that all the conferences will say, 'Yes, let's do it.' So that's a decision by default. If that's where they [the oversight committee] want to be, fine, but at least make a conscious decision."