MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The NCAA ruled Monday that a Middle Tennessee football player who spent five years in the Marines can compete this fall and that he will have four years of eligibility remaining.
It's a reversal from the NCAA's decision to rule Steven Rhodes ineligible because he played in a recreational league during his military service. School officials said earlier Monday that they were working with NCAA officials to come up with a solution.
"It's nothing but a blessing," Rhodes said after Monday's practice.
Monday afternoon, the NCAA issued a news release saying Rhodes could play immediately and member schools would still re-examine the competition rules, especially as it impacts those returning from military service. Rhodes has been practicing at tight end and defensive end.
"We thank Steven for his service to our country and wish him the best as he begins college," NCAA vice president of academic and membership affairs Kevin Lennon said.
Rhodes played in a recreational league during his service. An NCAA rule says student-athletes who don't enroll in college within a year of graduating high school will be charged a year of eligibility for every academic year they see organized competition.
But the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Marine sergeant said the rec league was nothing close to organized.
"Man, it was like intramurals for us," the 24-year-old told the Daily News Journal in Murfreesboro, Tenn., which first reported the story.
The rule first took shape in 1980, when "participation in organized competition during times spent in the armed services, on official church missions or with recognized foreign aid services of the U.S. government" was exempt from limiting eligibility. But through several revisions, the clause allowing competition during military service was lost.
Auburn: Defensive end Dee Ford (knee) is expected to miss the opener, Aug. 31 against Washington State.
Virginia Tech: Defensive lineman Corey Marshall left the team "to take care of some personal matters," director of football operations John Ballein said in an email.
Wake Forest: Senior free safety Duran Lowe of Plant City was kicked off the team, the school said.
UCLA: Quarterback T.J. Millweard asked for and was granted a transfer, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Jurisprudence: U.S. District Court Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson rejected the NCAA's motion to dismiss a case brought by former player John Rock. NCAA lawyers wanted the suit thrown out because he couldn't show one-year scholarships or scholarship limits on teams in Division I-A or I-AA created an anti-competitive effect.
New bowl: A new game, the Camellia Bowl, will begin in December 2014 in Montgomery, Ala., matching teams from the Sun Belt and MAC.
Basketball: Hall of Fame coach Don Haskins, women's basketball pioneer Theresa Grentz and former Iowa and USC coach George Raveling were named recipients of the Lapchick Character Award, named after the Hall of Fame coach, in New York.