Drake Group refutes benefits of Big Ten's 'year of readiness' proposal

Jim Delany, Commissioner of the Big Ten Conference speaks during a news conference to announce a partnership with Madison Square Garden Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Jim Delany, Commissioner of the Big Ten Conference speaks during a news conference to announce a partnership with Madison Square Garden Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2014, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

In response to the Big Ten’s 12-page paper detailing the benefits of freshmen ineligibility in football and men’s basketball, the Drake Group published a paper of its own that opposed the notion that a redshirt year would benefit student-athletes academically.

“Research indicates that athletes who did not compete were more likely than those who competed to end the year in poor academic standing even when admitted under normal admission requirements,” the Drake Group’s paper said.

Two of the Big Ten’s key points in its argument for freshmen ineligibility, which it calls “a year of readiness,” were that graduation rates in men’s basketball and football are worse than athletes in other sports and that most NCAA infractions occur in those two sports.

The Drake Group pointed out three negative impacts that would stem from the Big Ten’s proposal:

(1) academically capable students will be penalized by lack of access to extracurricular activities; (2) academically capable students who wish to complete four years of athletic eligibility will have to stay in school for one or two additional semesters, increasing the cost of education to these students or to institutions that provide athletic or other scholarship assistance (estimated to be $94.5 million); and (3) non-scholarship (walk-on) athletes who may be outstanding students will see their graduation dates delayed if they wish to compete for four years.

Absent a demonstrated positive academic impact and considering the adverse economic and academic consequences, freshmen ineligibility seems misguided for athletes generally, for all participants in revenue sports, or for football and men’s basketball players only.

The Drake Group said the Big Ten’s proposal “masks the real problem” that many of the athletes who are recruited to participate in big time Division I athletics are “unprepared” for the academic workload. These students, the paper said, are often admitted “by means of exceptions to normal admission standards, and then experience excessive athletically related time demands.”

While the Drake Group “supports the practice of special admissions” and said that decisions “related to diversification of the student population and advancing educational opportunities for underserved and lower socio-economic populations are ethically justified,” it said in its paper that “access to higher education should not mean open-door eligibility for underprepared athletes.”

The Group reaches the conclusion that simply making freshmen in men’s basketball and football ineligible is a “simplistic approach” that does not “address the need for a major course correction to restore academic integrity to the conduct of intercollegiate athletic programs.”

In order to help students from these circumstances whose “academic profiles” are lower than that of his or her incoming class, the Drake Group wrote that he or she “should be subject to national athletic governance rules.” While those rules prohibit athletes from being eligible, they also provide students with additional academic support.

That support includes:

(1) athletic scholarship assistance to support the athlete during a year of transition and remedial learning if necessary; (2) academic skills and learning disability testing; (3) if necessary, a remediation program supervised by academic authorities; (4) if necessary, a reduced college credit course load to accommodate the time required for remediation; (5) a 10 hours per week participation restriction applicable to athletics-related activities (practice, meetings, etc.); and (6) tenured faculty oversight of the student’s academic progress throughout his or her enrollment at the institution.

The Drake Group’s research shows that athletes generally underperform academically when stacked against their non-athletic peers. It has seven recommendations for universitiess to implement to lessen the gap.

(1) full enforcement of the 20 hours per week limit on all athletically related activities when classes are in session; (2) no competition during final examination periods; (3) adoption of institutional policies by faculty senates approving the maximum percentage of classes that may be missed due to scheduled athletic competitions; (4) no athletic department requirement that athletes select majors and courses that are The Drake Group Position Paper: Freshmen Ineligibility in Intercollegiate Athletics April 20, 2015 Page 3 of 12 compatible with athletics practices, meetings or competitions, (5) the scheduling of football games on weekends exclusively, because both athletes and students who are non-athletes are likely to attend; (6) the provision of athlete academic support services by academic units only, not by the athletic department; and (7) adoption of NCAA continuing eligibility standards requiring that any athlete with a cumulative GPA less than 2.0 be ineligible to participate in athletics, be restricted to a maximum of 10 athletics practice or meeting hours per week, and remain ineligible until a cumulative 2.0 GPA is achieved.

The Drake Group’s paper, which includes its research relative to the benefits of redshirt years, can be viewed in its entirety here.

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Sam Cooper is a contributor for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!