Today in Sports History (1/8): NCAA Allows Freshman to Play
On January 8, 1972, the NCAA allowed freshmen to play in both Varsity Football and Basketball.
Previously, 1st year college students were forced to play on junior varsity and freshman/sophomore squads. Famously, UCLA’s Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) led his freshman squad to defeat the Bruins’ varsity squad– who were defending champions (and had won two of the last three national championships). This landmark decision would pave the road for highly touted freshmen of the future.
Without this change Michael Jordan wouldn’t hit his famous jump shot to defeat Georgetown in the 1982 tournament finals of the NCAA Basketball tournament. Without this change Georgia running back Herschel Walker wouldn’t become the first freshman to be named to the All-American team and lead his team to a National Championship. Without this change Kevin Durant or Anthony Davis don’t win the Wooden Award; Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel doesn’t win the Heisman. College wouldn’t be the same.
While this rule may seem archaic to our generation, the alteration to the rule forever changed both mainstream collegiate sports as we know it. The product now seen on the court and field has slowly welcome achievements by younger players as evident by recent Player of the Year awards by freshmen.
Some could make the argument that the game would be more morally sound if Freshman remained relegated to Frosh/JV games as student athletes. Students athletes would have more time to acclimate to their surroundings and focus on their long term futures instead of trying to become professionals. Some people could point at former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett and argue that while he helped his team to a national championship, he wasn’t ready for the national spotlight and his life was forever changed by immature decisions.
However, while some could argue this to be the case, there’s no denying that freshmen have played vital roles in some of the most memorable plays in the history of college sports.
And on this day, back in 1972, the NCAA finally allowed freshmen to play.