Whether it's the storied rivalry between Army and Navy or the legendary service of Pat Tillman, football and the military have a long history. But now, as one former Marine seeks to pursue his gridiron dreams, he is being hindered by complicated NCAA regulations. Steven Rhodes, who has waited five years to play football, will likely have to sit out another year as per regulations from college football's governing body, according to the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal.
A big surprise
Rhodes appeared well on his way to playing for Middle Tennessee State University this fall. However, the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Marine will have to wait because in 2012 he played in a recreational football league. The decision does not sit well with Rhodes, especially because the league amounted to nothing more than intramural and the players never received any money.
"I was super excited when he got the chance to play football (at MTSU), but then I was shocked to find out there was a problem with him playing," Adrienne, his wife and fellow servicemember, told the newspaper. "Those games were something they did in their spare time on the same base. They were games against different shops – you know, like the air traffic controllers against the mechanics. It was so disorganized. I couldn't believe that was an issue."
The school is appealing the ruling, according to The Associated Press. Perhaps most interesting in the debate is that had this happened decades ago, Rhodes would have likely been protected. Previously, the NCAA had a stipulation that exempted military servicemembers from limited eligibility due to their participation in organized sports on bases. In the years since, the rule has been revised and the language exempting troops may have been lost in the fray.
"All this is strictly because of how the bylaw is worded," Daryl Simpson, MTSU's assistant athletic director, told the AP. "In my opinion, there is no intent of anyone to not allow protection to our U.S. servicemembers."
This isn't the first time there has been some controversy over troops playing football. In 2008, Caleb Campbell was drafted by the Detroit Lions out of Army. Despite an NFL future, Campbell had to serve his two years in the Army after graduating. Eventually, he made his debut in 2010 with the Lions before also playing for the Kansas City Chiefs and Indianapolis Colts.