(WXIA) -- An ex-Marine has been cleared to play Division 1 football at MTSU after an investigation conducted by the NCAA into a transfer exception for former members of the US armed forces.
According to a release from NCAA's Kevin Lennon, the VP of Academic and Membership affairs on Monday:
"As a part of its continued review of Steven Rhodes' eligibility, NCAA staff determined he may play immediately. Additionally, he will maintain all four years of his eligibility. Throughout this process, NCAA staff worked closely with Middle Tennessee State University, and we appreciate the school's partnership. As a part of the ongoing review of NCAA rules, our members will examine the organized competition rules, especially as it impacts those returning from military service. We thank Steven for his service to our country and wish him the best as he begins college."
Rhodes played in a recreational league during his military service and according to an NCAA rule, student-athletes who don't enroll in college within a year of graduating high school will be charged one year of eligibility for every academic year they participate in organized competition.
The rule originally said competition during time in the armed services was exempt. That exemption no longer exists.
The NCAA decided earlier to rule Steven Rhodes ineligible because he played in a recreational league during his military service. School officials had said earlier Monday that they were working with NCAA officials to come up with a solution.
Administrators were informed of the decision grant Rhodes full approval for a waiver on Monday afternoon.
According to Dr. Sidney McPhee, president of Middle Tennessee State University:
"This is exciting news for Steven and Middle Tennessee State University. We express our gratitude to the NCAA for reviewing this situation and granting Steven the ability to play this fall. We are hopeful that the NCAA will look at the bylaws regarding all individuals who serve in the military before becoming a student-athlete."
Rhodes' coaches informed him of the decision just prior to Monday's practice.
"I just had to go give them a hug and thank them," said Rhodes. "And thank the Lord. It's nothing but a blessing."
The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Rhodes, from Antioch, Tenn., will major in aerospace at MTSU.
He dreams of playing for the NFL.