The NCAA has officially succumbed to overwhelming public outcry and will allow 24-year old United States Marine veteran Stephen Rhodes to play immediately for Middle Tennessee State University.
Kevin Lennon, vice president of academic and membership affairs, released the following statement on the NCAA’s official website:
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.
The NCAA had originally ruled Rhodes ineligible because he had participated in intramural league football games while serving with the Marines. He, along with his wife Adrienne, the Blue Raiders football program and the nation as a whole, were flabbergasted at the NCAA’s perceived complete lack of compassion for a young man that had served his country.
At 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds, Rhodes has been playing both tight end and defensive end in practices just to see where he may best fit. In all likelihood, he will not be playing much of either as a true freshman in 2013, but coach Rick Stockstill believes he may make a difference on special teams.
Hopefully Stockstill finds a way to get him on the field come Week 1.
MTSU takes on Western Carolina on Thursday, Aug. 29 at 7:30 p.m. EST.