The New York Times reported in January 1972. “It is not certain that all known forces in football and basketball will employ players that coaches may consider to be very inexperienced.” Using new students on university teams. …however, the NCAA members who made this ruling were faculty sports advisors, members of the college’s departments concerned with saving money. And they feel that by eliminating freshman teams, they will save money.”
Did this change cause a massive ripple? not necessarily. College football was suddenly not under the control of 18-year-olds. But without that change, college basketball legend Hall of Famer Quinn Buckner—who started with the basketball and soccer teams as a freshman in Indiana in 1972-1973—would have become less wealthy. Tony Dorsett wasn’t going to be the best returnee in the country from the moment he set foot on the Pitt campus. Georgia wouldn’t have ridden Herschel Walker for the 1980 national title. We haven’t been exposed to the same greatness from some of the most amazing superstars the sport has seen in the last half century.
To celebrate the anniversary of the change, let’s make a list! Here are the 50 best seasons real freshmen have had in major college football over the past 50 years. Some went on to shiny jobs at both the college and professional level; Others reached their limit early. Let’s celebrate them all.
50. LB/RB Myles Jack, UCLA (2013)
A three-star recruit from Washington, Jack didn’t find enough time to play only to finish fifth over the Bruins in tackles (76) and third in tackles (seven) as a star in year one, also finishing second in the hurried landing (Seven). He had five tackles, 59 fast yards and four touchdowns in a 41-31 win over Washington. This game alone may have made it to the list.
49. O.L. Reggie Green, Florida (1992)
Former NFL head coach Dick Vermeil, who worked for ABC as a television analyst, called Green “the best freshman deal I’ve seen in college football” during a 1992 broadcast. He was rock, capable of closing Alabama’s Eric Curry in SEC Championship. By 1993, he was All-SEC, but unfortunately injuries slowed from there.