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Freshmen ineligibility debate returns

An NCAA panel of 27 members may recommend to the NCAA that freshmen become ineligible to participate in men's basketball.

The committee, which includes Virginia Athletics Director Terry Holland, will meet in Chicago June 23. Junior College transfers and foreign players would also sit out a year as part of the possible ineligibility recommendation.

If the panel decides to send the recommendation to the NCAA, final approval would need to come from the board of directors. The process of adopting a freshman ineligibility rule could take several years even if proposed this month.

"I think people agree that we're a long way from this," said North Carolina associate athletic director Larry Gallo. "It may not happen. ... We're a long way from it even coming to fruition."

There are many reasons that the panel has chosen to explore the possibility of freshmen ineligibility in men's basketball. One part of the rationale is to put a greater focus on academics.

By making freshmen ineligible, the student-athletes would be able to place greater concentration on their schoolwork.

"I think they are trying to find a lot of different ways of improving collegiate basketball," Clemson associate athletic director Becky Bowman said. "They are looking for ways of trying to improve graduation rates and men's basketball."

"I can see the adjustment period of trying to balance big-time basketball and the pressure of trying to perform well and all the while school is going on ... and there are lots of other things too," Gallo said. "There is a lot of pressure that they face and maybe sitting out a year would alleviate some of them."

The recommendation, if passed, would also allow freshmen a year to adjust to the life of a college student. By taking some of the pressures associated with collegiate basketball away, the athletes would have a longer period of adjustment upon entering school.

"In general, the proposal has very positive implications in terms of academics and adjustment needs for freshmen in men's basketball," Virginia associate director of athletics Craig Littlepage said.

"I have difficulty separating out singular sports; we have freshman participating in a lot of sports," Bowman said. "We had the ACC Freshman of the Year playing volleyball and she didn't seem to have any problems adjusting. They continue to add rule after rule after rule and I think someone needs to stand up and say, 'If they can handle the work, let them in. If they can't, don't let them in.'"

Since some athletes attend college as a means for exposure to professional scouts, there is some hope that the recommendation will also help to stem the number of early departures to the NBA.

But in spite of the positive tenants of the suggestion, some people have raised concerns. If faced with the decision of attending school or bypassing college altogether for the NBA, some fear that students may choose the latter--thus defeating the academic focus of the proposal.