Posted August 20, 2013

NCAA reverses decision, grants MTSU Marine immediate eligibility

NCAA
U.S. Marine Steven Rhodes is immediately eligible to play for MTSU. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

U.S. Marine Steven Rhodes is immediately eligible to play for MTSU. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

By Zac Ellis

The NCAA didn’t take long to undo its latest PR blunder, announcing on Monday afternoon that a Marine previously deemed ineligible to play football at Middle Tennessee State will be granted immediate eligibility.

Steven Rhodes, a Marine sergeant fresh off five years of active service, was planning on walking on to the MTSU football program this fall when he received an unusual notice from the NCAA. Rhodes would be deemed ineligible to play with the Blue Raiders because of his participation in a military-only recreational football league in 2012.

According to the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, Tenn., NCAA bylaw 14.2.3.2.1 states that student-athletes who do not enroll in college directly out of high school will be docked one year of college eligibility for every year in which they participate in organized competition. Rhodes’ participation in the military football league was considered “organized competition.”

Rhodes told DNJ on Sunday that the news came as a shock for an activity that barely resembled organized sports.

“Man, it was like intramurals for us. There were guys out there anywhere from 18 to 40-something years old,” said Rhodes, chuckling and shaking his head. “The games were spread out. We once went six weeks between games.”

In a statement the NCAA credited its “continued review” of the situation for the organization’s change of heart:

As a part of its continued review of Steven Rhodes’ eligibility, NCAA staff determined he may play immediately. Additionally, he will maintain all four years of his eligibility.

[...]

As a part of the ongoing review of NCAA rules, our members will examine the organized competition rules, especially as it impacts those returning from military service.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Rhodes has been working out at tight end and defensive end for MTSU thus far into fall camp.

10 comments
tangerinewarrior
tangerinewarrior

Here's wishing Sgt. Rhodes a wonderful season and career. Ho-Rah!

donald5
donald5

I'm not giving the NCAA much credit for doing anything right.  They made the original decision to force him to wait out an entire year.  They only changed their mind after the large amount of public backlash for treating a service member like someone who forgot to sign a form correctly at the DMV.  Maybe they get points for not being as stubborn as they were in the past but that is it.  

UleNotknow
UleNotknow

For once the NCAA does something right. Congratulations.

mystafugee
mystafugee

of course, anytime veterans or military people are involved.  

PDoughe738
PDoughe738

@mystafugee Since they risk their lives for some of the freedoms that we take for granted there can't be a little wiggle room? I have participated in some military sports while in the Marine Corpsand it is far from organized competition.