• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

Marine Steven Rhodes Eligible for NCAA Football

Steven-Rhodes-Marine-College-Football-NCAA

The NCAA has come to its senses regarding a Marine sergeant who wants to play college football.

ESPN (“NCAA: Marine can play immediately“):

The NCAA ruled Monday that freshman Steven Rhodes can “play immediately” after serving five years in the Marines.

“Additionally,” NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs Kevin Lennon said in a release, “he will maintain all four years of his eligibility.”

It’s a reversal from the NCAA’s earlier decision to rule Rhodes ineligible because he played in a recreational league during his military service. School officials had said earlier Monday that they were working with NCAA officials to come up with a solution.

“It’s nothing but a blessing,” Rhodes said after Monday’s practice.

An NCAA rule states that student-athletes who don’t enroll in college within a year of graduating high school will be charged one year of eligibility for every academic year they participate in organized competition.

“We were informed this afternoon that the NCAA has granted full approval to Steven Rhodes’ waiver,” MTSU president Dr. Sidney McPhee said in a statement. “This is exciting news for Steven and Middle Tennessee State University. We express our gratitude to the NCAA for reviewing this situation and granting Steven the ability to play this fall. We are hopeful that the NCAA will look at the bylaws regarding all individuals who serve in the military before becoming a student-athlete.”

The decision isn’t a slam dunk. The rule exists for good reason: it’s unfair for 18-year-old kids right out of high school to have to compete with grown men who have bulked up and  honed their skills playing organized football. But Rhodes was essentially playing intramural football in the Marines. By his own description, ”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.”

According to the report, the rule previously had exceptions for military and church recreational leagues but the military exception fell out over time as the rules evolved. My guess is that this is just a function of rarity: since the end of the draft four decades ago, relatively few served in the military before going to college and playing sports.

Related Posts:

About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. al-Ameda says:

    Wow! It wasn’t until the NCAA first ruled Rhodes ineligible – because he played in a recreational league where they kept score and had formal officiating – that I realized when I played intramural sports in college (kept score, formal officiating), I too would have been ineligible to play on our Division 1 baseball, basketball and football teams.

    Unbelievable. How do you arrive at that interpretation of eligibility?

    One of these days a group of colleges is going to secede from the NCAA and form another more sensible version of the NCAA.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. al-Ameda says:

    Oh my god, I just realized that there’s an editing (or deleting) option now!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. legion says:

    The rule exists for good reason: it’s unfair for 18-year-old kids right out of high school to have to compete with grown men who have bulked up and honed their skills playing organized football.

    Indeed, if that were the sole justification, you could argue that just being in the Marines for several years would render him ineligible…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  4. Davebo says:

    Yes, because an 18 year old is at such a disadvantage….

    God I wish I were still 18 and at such a disadvantage.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  5. James Joyner says:

    @legion: Yup. What’s odd to me is that being in college and NOT playing sports runs your eligibility. I think the military exemption goes back to draft days. So, for example, George H.W. Bush played college baseball at Yale after he got back from the war.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. James Joyner says:

    @Davebo: There’s a curvilinear relationship at work. An 18-year-old athlete is at a disadvantage against a comparably talented 25-year-old. A 35-year old is at a disadvantage in most sports against a comparably talented 18-year-old.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. BIll says:

    James Joyner wrote:

    There’s a curvilinear relationship at work. An 18-year-old athlete is at a disadvantage against a comparably talented 25-year-old.

    When it comes to women professional golfers, that might not apply. Lexi Thompson and Lydia Ko both won LPGA tournaments well before turning 20. Ko was 15 and is still an amateur.

    Paula Creamer and Michelle Wie on the other hand both won before turning 20 but now find themselves three years without a win at the ripe old ages of 27 and 22.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. C. Clavin says:

    So I still have eligibility?
    I bet I can play at some State schools around here!!!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. Todd says:

    When comparing it to a church league, it makes sense that he shouldn’t be excluded. That said, I think the military angle got way too much play in this story. I actually caught one segment on CNN yesterday where the legal analyst was trying to make the case that these football games somehow constituted military training … what utter BS.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. C. Clavin says:

    Kind of OT…
    How about some mad props for the ’72 Dolphins at the White House today???
    Perfectville….population 1

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0