Steven Rhodes can play ball.
The former Marine who participated at Miramar Air Station for an intramural Marine Corps league made headlines this week when the NCAA denied his eligibility for college football.
But the N.C.A.A. momentarily halted the process, pointing to bylaw 126.96.36.199.1., its regulations regarding delayed eligibility. Rhodes’s participation in an organised football league — with publicized schedules, official scoring and predetermined rosters — would be an infraction, and last week, Rhodes was declared ineligible to play for the Blue Raiders.
Public reaction was swift and vitriolic, with opponents lining up to condemn the N.C.A.A. for taking away the playing rights from a Marine.
The Times reports that NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs, Kevin Lennon, announced a reversal late Monday, allowing Rhodes to play for a full four years.
The reversal follows a massive media outcry on behalf of Rhodes.
Even Senator John McCain, who was a boxer at the Naval Academy, got into the mix:
The 6’3″, 240-pound Rhodes, who served five years in the Marine Corps as an air traffic controller, was just part of a loosely organised Marine recreational sports program that includes everything from boxing to ultimate frisbee.
Though it does get competitive — especially for the Miramar football Falcons — it’s hardly at the level of NCAA sports.
Most of the participants are active duty Marines, ranging in age from 18 to 40. The leagues are all generally coached, administrated, and played by active duty Marines during their personal, off-duty hours — although some exceptions are made for successful teams, in terms of time off and travel.
Rhodes is expected to play for the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders where he will “now be the most recognisable player on the field,” writes Zach Schonbrun of the Times.
“To be getting support from millions of people that don’t even know me,” Rhodes told the Times, “it’s just a blessing.”
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