Missing the point

Missing the point

The NCAA has sacked itself with another self-inflicted public relations gaffe.

When the NCAA, the governing body of major college sports, screws up, it goes all the way.

This week the organization's clueless bureaucratic czars messed up so badly that even they knew their decision could not stand. So they reversed themselves before the nation's sports media had much of a chance to blast them out of the sky.

Steven Rhodes is a 24-year-old football walk-on at Middle Tennessee State University who's been playing tight end and defensive end in preseason practice. But practice was all Rhodes was going to have a chance to play, the NCAA decreed, because he ran afoul of one of its rules.

The NCAA decision was doomed before it was even made public because it was not only stupid (there is no other word for it), but also because it affected a member of a revered segment of our population — military veterans.

Rhodes joined the MTSU team after serving a five-year stretch in the U.S. Marines, where he had played a little Marine football that the NCAA characterized as "organized competition." His participation required Rhodes to sit out this football season.

What was this "organized competition"?

Rhodes characterized it as akin to "intramurals" that attracted players whose ages ranged from "18 to 40-something." They played when they had time, he said, and "once went six weeks between games."

How is it that games played on an ad hoc schedule between rival employee groups on a Marine base become akin to competition like the very serious business of major college football? The answer is because the NCAA said it was before it said it was not.

People might write this off as foolishness ultimately corrected, and that's true to a point. But Rhodes' status as ex-military gave him a little clout. What of other college athletes similarly victimized by foolish rules interpretations? They get chewed up by the NCAA bureaucrats who sometimes interpret rules in a way that defies common sense and have the clout to make their decisions stick.

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