NCAA backs off initial ruling, declares former Marine eligible at MTSU

The NCAA declared Middle Tennessee State University football player Steven Rhodes immediately eligible for the 2013 football season Monday.

Rhodes’ case gained national attention a day earlier when Adam Sparks of the (Murfreesboro) Daily News Journal profiled the start of his college career as a walk-on following four years in the U.S. Marines. The NCAA initially declared he had to sit out 2013 because of an obscure eligibility rule that initially accounted for someone in his position.

The NCAA issued the following statement from vice president of academic and membership affairs Kevin Lennon:

“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. 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.”

Dr. Sidney McPhee, MTSU’s president, spoke for the university.

“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. 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.”