Symbolically for the NCAA, this would have be akin to tying a woman to the subway tracks just ahead of the morning commute. And so college sports’ governing body reversed an earlier decision, and now says that Marine Steven Rhodes can play football for Middle Tennessee State University.
The NCAA has been dodging brickbats for two weeks after ruling that Rhodes would lose a year of eligibility because he played on a recreational football team while serving five years with the Marines.
According to NCAA rules, student-athletes who don’t enroll in college within a year of graduating high school are docked one year of eligibility for every academic year they participate in “organized competition”.
But according to Rhodes, his military play consisted of little more than pickup games, with some of the games as much as six weeks apart.
From the NCAA statement released today:
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.
This is the second time the NCAA has backed down in as many weeks, after saying that it will stop selling players’ jerseys on its web site.
“I think public pressure obviously has been pretty enormous on the NCAA on this one,” [Middle Tennessee athletic director Chris] Massaro said. “I think they honestly are looking for a way to kind of find a common-sense solution to this and still maintain what the original integrity of the rule was. I think there are some ways for them to do this. I’m hoping we can put some closure to this.”
After all, there is only so much PR flak you can take before you have to call in air support. The NCAA can fight Johnny Manziel, because he’s repeated time and again than he’s just a kid. The Marines are a little tougher.