Make Freshmen Wait

In the world of college football and college basketball, instant gratification is the norm. Kids with no interest in the classroom go through the motions for one year and then turn pro. At Kentucky all five freshmen basketball players turned pro a year ago. This year three freshmen starters are turning pro. Bobby Knight recently apologized to Kentucky for using the Wildcats as the example of what’s wrong with college basketball. He apologized because Kentucky isn’t the notable exception. There are too many other schools like it to single out the Wildcats. But Bobby’s heart was in the right place.

Not long ago in this space I wrote that the NCAA should turn back the clock 40 years and make freshmen ineligible for varsity sports. It wasn’t until the 1970s that freshmen became eligible for varsity ball. We now have college athletes turning pro after one year of football or basketball.

Ohio State football coach Jim Tressel agrees with me.

“They should wait until their sophomore year,” Tressel said to me Monday night at the National Football Foundation awards dinner.

I mentioned something about  junior varsity teams for freshmen AND sophomores, making juniors and seniors only eligible for varsity ball. This will keep them in school longer. Only serious students need apply. At least, semi-serious students.

Tressel advocates against JV football.

“No JV football,” said Tressel. “At Ohio State there would be 42,000 for JV football games.”

He’s right. If every major school had a JV team, games would be on radio and television every Wednesday and Thursday nights. This is not what he wants. Tressel would prefer to keep freshmen under wraps until at least their sophomore years.

Freshmen don’t handle stardom well. Tressel would know.

Ironically, freshman, Braxton Miller from Huber Heights Wayne, could be Ohio State’s starting quarterback for the first five games this coming season.

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RAILBIRD’S DERBY PICK. I’ll have Bob Roberts’ Kentucky Derby pick Thursday morning before the Derby. His pick will be posted by noon, Thursday, May 5.

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