steven rhodes

NCAA comes around, grants MTSU player immediate eligibility


As you’ve no doubt heard by now — and if you haven’t, you can change that by reading this outstanding piece from Sunday’s edition of the Daily News-Journal — walk-on Middle Tennessee State defensive end/tight end Steven Rhodes was forced to take a mandatory redshirt for the 2013 season by the NCAA for, well, no good reason at all.

Rhodes, a Marine veteran, was told he must sit out the season because of a NCAA bylaw stating that players who do not enroll in college within a year of graduating high school will be charged one year of eligibility for every academic year they compete in organized competition.

Well, Rhodes just so happened to compete in organized competition after high school:  a military-only recreational football league. “Intramurals” as Rhodes put it.

Naturally, when word got out about Rhodes’ story, it was met with appropriate outrage. MTSU and the NCAA began re-examining the situation, and on Monday evening, the NCAA (correctly) reversed their original decision. Rhodes will now not only be allowed to play in 2013, but he’ll maintain all four years of eligibility. From the NCAA’s statement:

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.

Throughout this process, NCAA staff worked closely with Middle Tennessee State University, and we appreciate the school’s partnership.

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.

We thank Steven for his service to our country and wish him the best as he begins college.

The NCAA’s original decision was absurd, but it surely wasn’t done out of malice. Get a highly bureaucratic entity like the NCAA and rules with unintended consequences happen. Someone(s) somewhere made a decision based on a rule and that was that.

The important thing is that common sense prevailed. Even if Rhodes never sees the field once this year, he’ll have the option. And that’s what he should have.

(Photo credit: MTSU athletics) 

Ole Miss OT Laremy Tunsil to return for Texas A&M on Oct. 24

Associated Press
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As if this day wasn’t busy enough, Ole Miss announced late Monday evening star-crossed offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil‘s suspension has been capped at seven games, meaning he’ll miss Saturday’s trip to Memphis but return in time for Texas A&M visit to The Grove on Oct. 24.

From the university:

The University initially withheld Tunsil from competition at the start of the season as both the NCAA and the University examined several alleged improper benefits.  During the course of the process, it was determined by the NCAA that Tunsil received impermissible extra benefits that included the use of three separate loaner vehicles over a sixth-month period without payment, a four-month interest-free promissory note on a $3,000 down payment for purchasing a used vehicle, two nights of lodging at a local home, an airline ticket purchased by a friend of a teammate, and one day use of a rental vehicle.  In addition, it was determined that Tunsil was not completely forthcoming when initially questioned by NCAA investigators regarding the loaner vehicles.  He later corrected his account and since apologized. 

As part of his reinstatement conditions, the NCAA imposed a seven-game suspension, ordered Tunsil to pay the value of the extra benefits to a charity, perform community service, and he will also make the vehicle down payment.

Said Tunsil: “I take full responsibility for the mistakes I made and want to thank everyone for their continued support. I want to apologize to my teammates, coaches and the entire Ole Miss family for how my choices affected our program. This was a learning experience, and I’m looking forward to being back on the field with my team and redeeming myself. The last 10 months have been a physical and mental battle for me, but I love playing this game more than anything else. I want to be here for my teammates who are depending on me to finish what we started together.”

The news is, obviously, great for Tunsil and head coach Hugh Freeze personally, as well as the entire Ole Miss football program. It’s also a nice plus for NFL scouts, as it means Tunsil’s first live action of 2015 will come against possible future No. 1 draft pick Myles Garrett.

Hope he’s been practicing.

Report: Steve Spurrier set to retire

Steve Spurrier

Say it ain’t so, Steve.

According to a report from Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated Monday evening, Steve Spurrier is set to retire.

Spurrier, 70, is a legend the likes college football has never seen before and never will again.

He was a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback at Florida, then returned to his alma mater and turned the program into a juggernaut, leading the Gators to 122-27-1 record from 1990-01 and a national championship in 1996. After a stint with the NFL’s Washington Redskins, Spurrier landed at South Carolina, where since 2005 he’s racked up a school record 86 wins.

But those wins slowed down of late. After an SEC East championship in 2010 and three straight 11-2 seasons from 2011-13, the Gamecocks fell to 7-6 in 2014, and are off to a 2-4 mark this fall. With the possibility of losses to nemeses old and new like Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Florida and Clemson ahead, Spurrier, it appears, would rather fade away quietly to the putting green.

Perhaps no two sentences summarize Spurrier, then and now, more precisely than this:

Combined with his three years at Duke, Spurrier closes up shop with a 228-89-2 mark, and a bust in the coaches’ wing of the Hall of Fame waiting for him.