Steven Rhodes, a former US Marine and Middle Tennessee State walk-on football player, was initially denied eligibility to play this year by the NCAA. He had to forfeit two years of eligibility while taking a mandatory redshirt this season all because he participated in a military-only recreational football league back in 2012 while serving at a Marine base.
Rhodes recently finished five years of active military duty and couldn’t understand the logic behind his rejection. Another thing he didn’t grasp was the support he was soon to receive from people through internet, including Senator John McCain:
NCAA should allow Steven Rhodes to play – don’t penalize him for serving his country http://t.co/IliA7OmJFX
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) August 19, 2013
Rhodes’ appeal to the NCAA was expected to take weeks but because of the fireworks sparked by the media his case was wrapped up within 24 hours. The NCAA reinstated Rhodes’ eligibility to play this season and released the following statement by Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs:
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.
Rhodes, who doesn’t even have cable TV, was informed of the good news by his coach Rick Stockstill on the field during practice.
“Coach was smiling real big. I was ecstatic when he told me. I’m going to play now,” said Rhodes, who appeared excited with his new eligibility granted by the NCAA Monday afternoon.
“That’s the power of social media,” Stockstill said. “It’s amazing just how fast this thing got legs and took off.”
It’s great to see the NCAA step up for a change and circumvent some of its absurd rules in order not penalize a student athlete for serving our country.