Jim Delany's league appears to be joining Larry Scott's in pushing for freshmen ineligibility. (USATSI)
Jim Delany's league appears to be joining Larry Scott's in pushing for freshmen ineligibility. (USATSI)

The Big Ten didn't come right out Tuesday and state its support for making freshmen athletes ineligible for the first time in more than 40 years ... but it came awfully close.

The league issued a statement Tuesday calling for "feedback" from college athletics' "thought leaders" on a potential "year of readiness" for freshmen across all sports or, alternatively, "select sports." The statement comes five days after a similar statement made to CBSSports.com's Jon Solomon that the league had "reached out to member institutions to gauge their interest in beginning a national discussion" on the year of readiness 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 Tuesday's 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."

No official proposal has been made to restore ineligibility for true freshmen, but the topic has been one of the hottest in college sports since Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told CBSSports.com earlier this month that he and his league were "pushing" the concept forward. The NCAA ended ineligibility for freshmen in 1972.

The concept has largely been seen as a response to the "one-and-done" phenomenon in college basketball, and as a way for the Power 5 leagues to reassert their academic responsibility.

"I don't think it's looked upon as radical an idea as it seemed to people five years or 10 years ago because it makes so much sense educationally," ACC commissioner John Swofford told Solomon. "We're in a period now where everybody is trying to get a hold of the student-athlete experience and a recommitment, if you will, to balance academics and athletics." 

Even with the support of Scott and the interest of Delany, Swofford, and others, the "year of readiness" still has a long, long road to hoe before it becomes reality. But whether it fails or not, the leagues at least look like they care about their student-athletes' academic well-being ... and so in some sense, the proposal is already a success. The full text of the Big Ten statement:

Big Ten faculty, administrators and student-athlete representatives met this week to further discuss the importance of keeping education central to the mission of intercollegiate athletics.

The conference unanimously decided it would be important at this juncture to reach out to a diverse group of thought leaders in an effort to obtain as much feedback as possible to a number of important areas impacting academics on campus. Those areas include the potential establishment of a year of readiness for all sports--or select sports; student-athlete time demands; playing seasons; initial eligibility requirements; and other areas impacting academics on college campuses across the country. Knowing that matters of such impact would never be adopted unilaterally by a single conference or institution, it is important to the conference to devise a strategy and timeline that would encourage, and allow the conference to obtain, input from all.

"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," said Big Ten Commissioner James E. Delany. "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."

It is the Big Ten Conference's hope that reaching out to others in advance of the 2016 NCAA National Convention will allow those in attendance at the convention to engage in a more meaningful discussion informed by both the student-athlete welfare issues scheduled to be addressed at the convention, and the input provided by thought leaders around the country regarding issues more directly impacting academics.