The NCAA is in the news again and Steven Rhodes’ story lends further support to the argument that the NCAA’s laws are outdated. Rhodes was not trying to profit from his celebrity or accepted any illegal gifts. Actually, he gave us the gift of protection and just wants to play.
Steven Rhodes, a freshman walk-on at Middle Tennessee State University, is appealing an NCAA rule that is preventing him to from playing this season because he played in a recreational league in the military. Rhodes, 24, just completed five years of active service in the Marines protecting our country but, according to the NCAA, his play at the Marine base count as “organized competition” because there were game officials, team uniforms and the score was kept.
The rule penalizes student-athletes who do not go to college within a year of graduating high school one year of eligibility for every academic year they participate in organized competition.
“Man, it was like intramurals for us,” said the 24-year-old. “There were guys out there anywhere from 18 to 40-something years old. The games were spread out. We once went six weeks between games.”
Steven Rhodes and Middle Tennessee State University is fighting the NCAA to allow the Marine to play football this season and not be forced to take a mandatory redshirt.
Originally, Rhodes also had to forfeit two years of eligibility as well because he played two years in the recreational league. Last week, Rhodes and MTSU won a partial appeal to the NCAA, allowing the Marine to recoup two years of eligibility, but is still required to be redshirted this season.
Daryl Simpson, Middle Tennessee State University’s assistant athletic director/compliance, is taking process in stride and does not hold ill will towards the NCAA.
“All this is strictly because of how the bylaw is worded,” he said. “In my opinion, there is no intent of anyone to not allow protection to our U.S. service members.”
Mark Owens, MTSU spokesman, told the Associated Press that the school hopes to hear a final decision from the NCAA within the next month. The MTSU Blue Raiders open the season August 29 against Western Carolina.
Hopefully, the NCAA can get past itself and its archaic rules to allow this proud serviceman the right to play the sport he put on hold to keep us safe.