March 02, 2015

Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive says it would be best to wait until after the NCAA's new initial eligibility standards take effect in 2016 before considering whether to keep freshmen off the field.

Slive said in a statement to The Associated Press on Monday that if the goal is to improve graduation rates and grade-point averages, ''we have to remember that each college student has his or her own academic challenges.''

''To put a blanket over these student-athletes with a year on the bench doesn't address those individual needs to incentivize academic progress. Many students do come to college prepared both academically and athletically ready to compete in the classroom and in competition, and to penalize those students with a universal policy may create unintended consequences not beneficial to many student-athletes,'' he said.

Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany has said he wants his conference to consider making freshmen ineligible in football and men's basketball, and Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott and Bob Bowlsby have both expressed support for at least examining the possibility.

However, Delany has stressed the Big Ten could not act alone on a ''year of readiness'' for freshmen football and basketball players because it would put the conference at a competitive disadvantage.

Slive's statement made it clear the SEC has no interest in diving into the freshmen eligibility question for at least a couple of years.

The NCAA initial eligibility standards go up starting with the freshman class of 2016. To be immediately eligible for competition, prospective student-athletes must have at least a 2.3 GPA, with a sliding scale tied to SAT scores. An SAT score of 1,000 requires a 2.5 high school core-course GPA for competition and a 2.0 high school core-course GPA for aid and practice.

Prospects also must successfully complete 10 of the 16 total required core courses before the start of their senior year in high school.

''A lot of thought and preparation went into the new initial eligibility rules that go into effect in 2016. It is more appropriate to implement these new regulations and understand their impact before applying additional eligibility restrictions that may be more cosmetic than effective,'' Slive said.

Most college sports leaders have spoken out against the NBA's rule requiring American players to be 19 years old and a year out of high school to be drafted. The rule has created the so-called one-and-done player in college basketball.

''If this proposal is about student-athletes turning professional, we need to be careful not to create rules for a few that penalize the many,'' Slive said. ''The universe of student-athletes who leave early for professional sports is very small compared to the numbers that participate in football and men's basketball. And just because a student-athlete enters professional sports does not mean he or she has totally abandoned their academic pursuits.''

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