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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.

“We believe it just got kind of edited out without any real reason that we could find,” Massaro said. “That’s what we basically presented to (the NCAA). I think they’re taking a look at that.”

Daryl Simpson, MTSU’s assistant athletic director/compliance, said he doesn’t believe the NCAA ever intended to penalize military service members.

“All this is strictly because of how the bylaw is worded,” Simpson told The Daily News Journal. “In my opinion, there is no intent of anyone to not allow protection to our U.S. service members.”

Middle Tennessee won a partial appeal to the NCAA last week recouping two years of eligibility for Rhodes with his recreational league spanning two academic years. But Rhodes still is appealing to play this season while practicing both at tight end and defensive end.

“In my view, I don’t see how any committee or individual after reviewing this in detail can conclude this student-athlete doesn’t deserve to play now and participate in intercollegiate sports,” McPhee said.

The Blue Raiders open the season Aug. 29 by hosting Western Carolina.