Enforcing the maze of rules, regulations and ethical standards pertaining to college athletics — and football in particular — is incredibly complicated.
That’s why universities and colleges have compliance officers, and the NCAA does investigations when concerns are brought to its attention.
Sadly, all this attention to the details of NCAA policies too often results in officials failing to consider the spirit of the rules, making something simple unnecessarily complicated.
Middle State Tennessee University freshman Steven Rhodes, a 24-year-old former Marine sergeant, was informed months ago he would be ineligible to play football this fall. He was told his participation in a military-only recreational football league in 2012 has made him ineligibility to play Division I football — per an NCAA rule — until he takes a mandatory redshirt (NCAA speak for not playing in games for one season while still being on the team).
It was absolutely ridiculous.
It was so silly (and embarrassing) that Rhodes’ predicament made national news and went viral on social media platforms. Monday, the NCAA agreed to let Rhodes have four years of eligibility to play college football.
Kevin Lennon, NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs, said there would be a review of guidelines regarding organized competition for those serving in the military.
That’s a good move. But the NCAA needs to take a look at all its regulations to make sure they serve the intended purpose. The NCAA rule mandating players sit out a year was put in place so athletes would not football-team hop each year because they weren’t getting enough playing time. The rule is supposed to bring some stability to the various athletic programs.
Rhodes’ situation has zero to do with the NCAA’s concerns, and any thinking person would have instantly seen that. A quick, reasonable review of this situation should have resulted in Rhodes being ruled eligible — no ifs, ands or buts.
It is unfortunate the 6-2, 240-pound former Marine had to endure the emotional roller coaster the NCAA put him on.
NCAA officials must learn from this experience and make sure its rules target the concerns they were created to address and, when exposed to public scrutiny, do not make them look like ninnies.