The Middle Tennessee State football team is hoping to push the NCAA to make ex-Marine Steven Rhodes eligible. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
After completing five years of service in the Marines this summer, 24-year-old Steven Rhodes is attempting to walk on to the Middle Tennessee State University football team as a freshman.
But the NCAA has ruled him ineligible to play this year because of his participation in a military-only recreational football league in 2012.
Bylaw 18.104.22.168.1. states that "student-athletes that do not enroll in college within a year of their high school graduation will be charged one year of intercollegiate eligibility for every academic year they participate in organized competition," according to The Daily News Journal's Adam Sparks.
Rhodes' rec league games count as "organized competition" because they used officials and team uniforms and kept score.
Rhodes was shocked by the news. He knew what that recreational league was. It was not pay-for-play. It was not highly competitive. It was not even well organized.“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.”
MTSU won a partial appeal last week that reduced Rhodes ineligibility time from two years -- because his rec league season spanned two academic years -- to one, and is "reloading its argument" in an attempt to allow Rhodes to play this season.
The school is asking the NCAA to change the rule, arguing that after several revisions over the past several decades, the clause allowing competition during military service was not carried over, according to assistant athletic director/compliance David Simpson.
“It’s nobody’s fault,” Simpson said. “There were unintended consequences of forgetting that clause over time.”MANDEL: Revenge of the Nerds: How the 'smart schools' got good at football
“We’re just saying (to the NCAA), ‘Hey, you forgot this clause,’” Simpson said.