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And Another Thing


NCAA: Another abomination from the masters

So now there's this:

Steven Rhodes is a Marine Corps veteran who walked onto the football team at Middle Tennessee State, where he's been practicing at tight end and defensive line. As such, it's problematical whether he'd see the field this year, or even dress.

Right now, though, the NCAA's decided it should be more than problematical.

Citing an obscure rule whose purpose, other than the obvious one -- keeping the indentured servants properly indentured -- is completely unclear, the NCAA has declared Rhodes ineligible for the 2013 season. That's because last year, while a Marine, Rhodes played what amounted to pickup football in a very loosely defined "recreational league."

"Man, it was like intramurals for us. There were guys out there anywhere from 18 to 40-something years old," Rhodes told the Murfreesboro (Tenn.) Daily News Journal. "The games were spread out. We once went six weeks between games."

Nonetheless, the NCAA says that means he played "organized" ball, and for every year a guy does that who doesn't immediately go to college out of high school, he sacrifices a year's eligibility.

God knows why that would matter to the NCAA, but apparently it does. So, rather than doing what the NCAA says is its mission -- protecting the welfare of its "student-athletes" -- once again it punishes a student-athlete (and one who, lest we forget, spent the last five years serving his country) because, lord knows, he might have played in a league that financially benefited him without the NCAA getting its cut.

That's not the case with Rhodes, which is why the NCAA is looking into "tweaking" the rule (My suggestion: Tweak it out of existence). And again you're left wondering, as it becomes ever more obvious that the NCAA exists solely to enrich its member schools while keeping labor costs down, what would have happened had Rhodes' name been, say, Johnny Manziel.

Who's currently being investigated for (gasp!) signing autographs for cash on multiple occasions. And who no doubt presents the NCAA quite the quandary, given how much he's worth monetarily to his school and college football in general.

Will the NCAA really sit down such a valuable commodity? And if it fudges on his discipline -- while punishing a military veteran for, well, nothing -- how obvious will its driving imperative be?

Ben Smith's blog.