DesJarlais Urges NCAA To Let Former Marine Play At MTSU

Monday, August 19, 2013

ver the weekend, Rep. DesJarlais learned Steven Rhodes, who honorably served his country as a Marine, is effectively sidelined from playing football for MTSU by the NCAA. The congressman is frustrated by the NCAA’s decision and sent President Emmert a letter Monday afternoon respectfully asking for an exception to be made. 

Dear President Emmert,

I write regarding the National Collegiate Athletic Association's (NCAA) decision to not allow a United States Marine, a hero by any measure, eligibility to play football for Middle Tennessee State University (MTSU) in this upcoming season.

The NCAA, founded more than 100 years ago, maintains in its mission statement that its goal "is to be an integral part of higher education and to focus on the development of our student-athletes." I truly believe that the NCAA has an opportunity to uphold that mission in resolving the current issue involving Mr. Steven Rhodes.

As you well know, Rhodes is a young man who felt compelled to serve his country and did so in active duty for five years. He is currently enrolled as a fulltime student at MTSU and has walked on the football team in hopes to participate this fall. Unfortunately, due to an NCAA interpretation of bylaw 14.2.3.2.1, Rhodes has been deemed ineligible. While I think we would both agree that this particular rule and clause therein was never intended to punish or deter our nation's military personnel from having the opportunity to participate in NCAA sanctioned athletic events, that is exactly the scenario that is currently unfolding. 

I respectfully ask that you take another look into Mr. Rhodes' situation and make a determination that military "recreational leagues" are not considered organized competitions that should preclude Mr. Rhodes from having immediate eligibility. After all, Mr. Rhodes has given the sacrifice of service to his country, displaying not only leadership but all of the qualities that the NCAA wants its student-athletes  to emulate and represent. Mr. Rhodes is seeking to be a "walk-on" athlete, paying for his own education and working to enhance his life both academically as well as athletically. Instead of celebrating and encouraging this endeavor, the NCAA is using an obtuse interpretation of its own bylaws on an issue in which I believe this outcome was never intended to address. And while the NCAA does not necessarily owe Mr. Rhodes the opportunity to play collegiate football, his compelling story should be an inspiration and an admirable example for all of its student athletes.

In closing, you may remember having said that the NCAA "was founded on the notion of integrating athletics into the educational experience, and we have to make sure we deliver on that 100-year-old promise. We have to remind ourselves that this is about the young men and women we asked to come to our schools for a great educational experience. We have to collectively deliver on those promises." President Emmert, both you and the NCAA have an opportunity to not only live up to this promise, but to also show student-athletes around the United States and others that Mr. Rhodes is someone we should look up to. 

I greatly appreciate your expedited consideration into this matter and please let me know if I can be of any further assistance.

Sincerely,
Scott DesJarlais, M.D.
Member of Congress


PHOTOS: Hixson Vs. Central

Hixson defeated Central Friday night, 33-12 (click for more)

Chattanooga Holds Off Mercer For Big SoCon Win

If you wanted to see a lot of offense in a college football game, then you should have been at Finley Stadium Saturday afternoon. Playing in front of an announced crowd of 10,763 on a spectacular fall day, the Chattanooga Mocs took advantage of an offensive explosion as they improved to 4-0 in the Southern Conference and 5-3 overall with a 38-31 victory over the Mercer Bears. ... (click for more)

Additions And Improvements At Camp Jordan Arena Coming Soon

Additions and improvements are coming to Camp Jordan Arena in the near future. At the Thursday night meeting of the East Ridge city council, approval was given for buying new playground equipment. It will come from Gametime, a locally-based company. The VP of Marketing lives in East Ridge and made a proposal to set up the playground at Camp Jordan so his company could use it for ... (click for more)

Teenager Killed In ATV Accident Thursday Night

Damon Lee Jones, 15, was killed Thursday night in an ATV accident in Walker County. It was reported he was riding with a 17-year old, when they tried to enter a church parking lot, but ran into a cable barrier. The accident happened on Dunwoody Road in LaFayette. The other rider, identified as Timothy J. Wallin, was not injured.   (click for more)

Tom Dugan Was A Good Man

Tom was my boss for most of my 36 years at Carta.  At the ceremony where I was awarded my 30-year service award, Tom said, "Don disagrees with 85% of my decisions, but I wish I had 80 more employees just like him." This kind of indicates our relationship. When I asked him to help with my plans for a reunion for the group of Veterans that I served with in Vietnam, he quickly ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: A Veterinarian’s Horse Sense

I suspect you’ve heard by now that a doctor in New York City, who volunteers with “Doctors Without Borders,” just got back from the African nation of Guinea on October 17 – last Friday – and on Thursday tested positive for the deadly Ebola virus. Luckily, he came in actual contact with only a few people but he reportedly rode a subway, took a taxi, went on a three-mile run and ... (click for more)