By NCAA standards, Rhodes’ play at the Marine base counted as “organized competition” because there were game officials, team uniforms and the score was kept.
But the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Marine sergeant said the recreational league was nothing close to organized.
“Man, it was like intramurals for us,” the 24-year-old told The (Murfreesboro) Daily News Journal, which first reported the story. “There were guys out there anywhere from 18 to 40-something years old. The games were spread out. We once went six weeks between games.”
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” were exempt from limiting eligibility.
But through several revisions and branches of the rule, the clause allowing competition during military service was lost and not carried over into the current bylaws.
Massaro said earlier Monday before the NCAA’s latest ruling that he was cautiously optimistic things would go in Rhodes’ favor, particularly as the case began to draw national attention. U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a Republican whose district includes Murfreesboro, Monday sent a letter to NCAA President Tom Emmert in support of Rhodes.
“This is such a no-brainer, frankly,” McPhee said Monday before the NCAA ruled Rhodes could play. “Even though the rule is very clear on this, I think there is a sense that a wrong needs to be made right in this particular case.”
Massaro said McPhee and Emmert communicated with each other a couple of times Monday and that those conversations “appeared to go very well.”
“It was very apparent that Dr. Emmert’s positon was, ‘Let’s see if we can find a way to make this work,’ “ Massaro said.
AP Sports Writer Mike Marot in Indianapolis contributed to this report.