The NCAA decided Monday afternoon a Marine who put his life on the line for his country can play football at Middle Tennessee State University.
Initially the NCAA said Steven Rhodes could not play college football this year because of a rule about playing on teams outside of the college game.
Rhodes previously played organized football in the military.
“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,” Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs said in a release.
Lennon continued, “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.”
Following the NCAA's decision, MTSU president Dr. Sidney McPhee and Director of Athletics Chris Massaro, delivered the news to Rhodes personally during practice just after 4 p.m.
“We were informed this afternoon that the NCAA has granted full approval to Steven Rhodes' waiver. This is exciting news for Steven and Middle Tennessee State University,” he said, adding, “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.”
After receiving the news, Rhodes couldn't stop smiling and had an extra spring in his step during the remainder of practice.
“It's nothing but a blessing,” Rhodes said. “They did the right thing now and all I can do is thank God for it.”
Head coach Rick Stockstill added, “I'm happy it worked out in his favor.”
Prior to the ruling, Rhodes previously said he was shocked he was going to be penalized for playing recreational football.
“The rule that I was getting penalized under wasn't meant to penalize me, it was meant for other reasons,” he explained.
The chiseled Marine veteran played football as a wide receiver at Nashville's Antioch High School before entering the military.
It remains unclear if Rhodes will play in MTSU's first game of the season on August 29 against Western Carolina.
- August 18, 2013: NCAA rule keeps Marine off MTSU football field