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Goofy NCAA Rules, Part 1

Monday, January 6, 2014 10:41am
By: Mark Owens

Mark Owens takes a look at one of the NCAA's many logic-defying rules.

I’m on the record as being opposed to the use of several oft-spoken terms in the modern American lexicon, notably “recorded earlier”, “semi-boneless ham”, “scoring the basketball”, and “first annual”. And with this obvious hypocrisy in mind, I present to you the first installment of a who-knows-how-many-of-these-there-will-be-series called “Wacky NCAA Rules”. 

Our first topic for conversation? The (very) curious case of Steven Rhodes. Rhodes, a former Marine Sargeant who served five years as an air traffic controller during his time in the military ... and was later prohibited from playing linebacker for Middle Tennessee State, specifically, because the NCAA claimed he'd run afoul of a couple of their "integrity-saving" bylaws. Because he'd served in the military and not gone directly to college AND because, while doing so, he played in an intramural league on his base, he was deemed ineligible. 

Specifically, he was said to have violated Bylaw, forcing him to sit out at least one season. 

The rules in question? Let's take a look. Delayed Enrollment—Seasons of Competition.  In sports other than men’s ice hockey, skiing and tennis, a student-athlete who does not enroll in a collegiate institution as a full-time student in a regular academic term during a one-year time period after his or her high school graduation date or the graduation date of his or her class (as determined by the first year of high school enrollment or the international equivalent as specified in the NCAA Guide to International Academic Standards for Athletics Eligibility and based on the prescribed educational path in the student-athlete’s country), whichever occurs earlier, shall be subject to the following: 

(a)  The student-athlete shall be charged with a season of intercollegiate eligibility for each calendar year after the one-year time period (the next opportunity to enroll after one calendar year has elapsed) and prior to full-time collegiate enrollment during which the student-athlete has participated in organized competition per Bylaw 14.02.11. 

(b)  After the one-year time period, if the student-athlete has engaged in competition per Bylaw 14.02.11, on matriculation at the certifying institution, the student-athlete must fulfill an academic year in residence before being eligible to represent the institution in intercollegiate competition. 

Are you cross-eyed yet? 

Getting to the gist of this, the rule basically dictates that student-athletes who do not enroll in college within a year of their high school graduation will be charged a year of intercollegiate eligibility for every academic year they participate in organized competition, and will be further penalized for participating in "organized competition".

There are no less than two troublesome parts to this, as it pertains to Steven Rhodes ... or anyone else who chooses to serve our country rather than enter college immediately following high school graduation.

First and most obvious is the fact that Rhodes was penalized for his military service … which is an interesting way for the NCAA to go. The NCAA has figured out topping exceptions for bagels, but cannot wrap its collective mind around a waiver for military service? Uhhhm. O.K. 

Second, in its ongoing attempts to “protect the integrity of student-athletes”, they’ve deemed that Mr. Rhodes’ further showed up on the naughty list by playing in a league on his base that could best be characterized as a step up from a Wii tournament ... except that Wii actually uses a clock in most of its sports-related games, too, I'm told by my 12-year-old. So Rhodes may have been hosed there, as well. 

This rule, directly and completely, punished a man who chose to defend his country prior to going to college, and penalized him further because, during the time he served as a Marine, he participating in what equated to an intramural football league on his base. 

The good news? The NCAA eventually came to its senses, reinstating Rhodes on August 12, allowing him to fully participate. But as it seems with all things NCAA-related, the hoops through which student-athletes and schools have jump are unnecessary, cumbersome, often unfair, and frequently ... stupid. 

So what do you think? 

Here’s my take: