NCAA declares Steven Rhodes can play for Middle Tennessee

The NCAA says defensive end Steven Rhodes can play this season for Middle Tennessee State.
(Bradley Lambert / Associated Press)

It took some nudging but, in the end, the NCAA did the right thing.

Perhaps bowing to the pressure of social media, the organization on Monday announced former Marine Steven Rhodes could play football immediately for Middle Tennessee State.

Rhodes is a freshman walk-on who served five years in the Marines. The NCAA originally reasoned he had to sit out one season because he played recreational football while in the service.

NCAA Vice president Kevin Lennon, though, pronounced Rhodes eligible in a released statement.


“Additionally,” the statement read, “he will maintain all four years of his eligibility.”

There was social media weekend outrage when it was revealed Rhodes might have to sit out this season, but the NCAA appears to have pivoted quickly in response to the latest round of negative publicity.

“We were informed this afternoon that the NCAA has granted full approval to Steven Rhodes’ waiver,” Middle Tennessee President Dr. Sidney McPhee said in a statement. “This is exciting news for Steven and Middle Tennessee State University. 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.”

Rhodes, under NCAA rules, was going to have to sit because he played in “organized competition” that included game officials, uniforms and keeping score.

Rhodes countered that the games were nothing more than glorified intramurals. Middle Tennessee opens the season Aug. 29 against Western Carolina.


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