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)