Big Ten seeks eligibility consensus

The Big Ten will seek additional feedback inside and outside collegiate athletics as it considers potential changes that would deem freshmen ineligible in all or some sports.

But the Big Ten will not alter its current eligibility standards unless there is national consensus, according to a statement released by the conference Tuesday after a meeting of administrators, student representatives and faculty.

Big Ten spokesman Scott Chipman described the league's freshman-ineligibility idea as a "dialogue" but not a "proposal."

"While we are comfortable generating multiple ideas about an 'education first' approach to intercollegiate athletics in the twenty-first century, we won't go it alone on any of these matters," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said in the statement. "We look forward to working with our colleagues in the NCAA Division I governance structure, and to exploring a broad exchange of ideas from both inside and outside of intercollegiate athletics."

ESPN.com had previously reported that the Big Ten had begun internal discussions about making all or some freshman athletes ineligible, a measure that would have the greatest effect on the current one-and-done climate in college basketball.

The Big Ten's statement confirmed that it had circulated the "White Paper," a memo that details the specifics of a potential "year of readiness," to its membership and that the league will share the document externally as it pursues additional feedback.

The league's statement also said it intends to gather information and input from other conferences as it prepares for a more thorough discussion on the matter at the 2016 NCAA Convention in San Antonio next January. Leaders from the Pac-12 and Big 12 have said that similar conversations have started in their respective leagues.

According to the NCAA, individual conferences can alter eligibility standards for their athletes or Division I leaders may seek and vote on eligibility changes that would modify NCAA bylaws. Autonomy among the Power 5 schools is not applicable.

"The rules surrounding freshmen ineligibility don't fall within the areas of autonomy, which means either conferences choose to adopt the policy on their own or the legislation is voted on by the entire division," the NCAA said in a statement issued Friday.

Purdue athletic director Morgan Burke said he believes in the NCAA policy that prohibited freshmen participation before a 1972 reversal.

"I, for one ,as a Big Ten AD, am tired of being used as a minor league for professional sports," Burke said. "What was right for the NCAA in the first 70 years of its history, maybe we ought to go back and say, 'What's changed?'"

Among Big Ten leaders, he said, a consensus exists to "get education back on the proper platform."

"What's the right solution?" Burke said. "You can debate on it. I think it deserves serious debate. I don't think an 18-year-old is going to be disadvantaged because they spend a year in readiness."

The urgency increases for a discussion on the emphasis of academics, Burke said, as public scrutiny rises amid Congress' examination of the collegiate sports model and the prevalence of high-profile court cases.

"Making sure that education is first is written in the Big Ten history book," Burke said. "We want to promote discussion to look at what we might do to make sure that the education piece is front and center.

"We have been a leader in national debate on other topics. It's time to engage on this one. Somebody has to start the discussions. Everybody says education is first, but the rhetoric and the actions don't always match."

Burke said he fails to see a negative side to freshmen ineligibility but that he understood the idea "won't be popular" in some forums nationally.

"There will be lots of people who come up with points to refute," he said. "But let's have the debate. Let's get people on the record on what other items they might suggest in lieu of in addition to (freshmen ineligibility)."

ESPN.com's Mitch Sherman contributed to this report.