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NCAA Rules Marine Eligible Immediately, Displays Shocking Levels of Reason

The NCAA, for the first time we can recall, actually reverted to the initial letter of the law with regard to their eligibility rules, and this time it actually pays off for the better.


I stumbled yesterday across the news that the NCAA still was dragging their feet with regard to making Western Michigan wide receiver eligible to play this season. It's tricky to find any details online, but coach P.J. Fleck has said that it's nothing more than a matter of waiting for the NCAA to finish with paperwork.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who has followed things like Arsalan Kazemi getting a hardship waiver and therefore being able to play college basketball immediately after transferring from Rice to Oregon (reportedly on the basis that he was moving closer to his family... in Iran).

Or the hundreds of other players who seem to have their fates decided by some combination of archaic roulette and the NCAA throwing darts at its "Which Rules Do We Want To Strictly Enforce Today?" dartboard.

But then another news story popped up, and I may have to consider the fact that at least one logical, sane person works for that hideous organization.

Steven Rhodes is 24 years old, and he is entering college as a freshman because he just finished his time being a Marine. After spending five years serving our country, he decided that a) he wanted to attend college at Middle Tennessee State, and b) he wanted to play football while he was there.

The NCAA disagreed with him, and stated that if he wanted to do just that, he would need to first sit out a season to gain residency in Tennessee, and once he had done that, he could play only two years for the Blue Raiders.

At the particular moment it was made, it was a logical decision, because:

1) Any student who enrolls in college more than a year after graduating high school loses one year of athletic eligibility for every one year they play in an organized league, per current NCAA football regulations

2) Rhodes played two seasons in a rec league while he was in the Marines, which is considered an organized league because it meets the NCAA definition of such by having uniforms, game officials, and keeping game scores and other statistics.

There are but two problems with this. First of all, having been in the military (active duty army), I too was in numerous rec leagues for football, softball, basketball, and so on. We certainly met those three criteria I just listed, but the softball league was the most organized league I was in, and that was borderline Artie Lange "Beer League" shenanigans. Second, and more importantly, the NCAA was blind to their own rules with that initial decision.

It was later discussed that this particular rule governing eligibility, which was written in roughly 1980, originally had a provision that allowed you to be exempt if your non-NCAA sports participation was during military, mission, or other government service.

Somehow over the last three decades, the rule was revised but that bylaw was not carried forward. Even more surprising is that, in recent years, that provision had been brought back for a number of other sports, but not for football.

It's great to see the NCAA come to their senses and decide something simple like "well, I guess that bylaw that keeps us from discriminating against veterans for having fun playing sports while serving our country makes sense, let's go ahead and follow it." Now lets hope that common sense and actionable behavior carries forward to guys like Darius Phillips whose situations are far less complex.

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