The NCAA and the Church League Advantage

By Loren Sanders

Prior to the 2013 football season, the NCAA ruled that a former Marine, Sergeant Steven Rhodes, was ineligible to play for MTSU because he had played backyard football while enlisted. They decided that he would have an advantage over other college freshman because he had played in games where the teams wore uniforms and the score was kept. Guess what, everybody wore uniforms where Sergeant Rhodes was. Because, after the games, he and his teammates went back to putting their lives on the line for our country.

Always a stickler for its rules, the NCAA dropped the hammer on Rhodes. However, once the media got ahold of this story in mid-August, it took the NCAA all of about a day to reverse its course and grant the former Marine full and immediate eligibility.

Always one to learn from a previous experience, recently, the NCAA came out and said that a young man named Nathan Harries had to forfeit a year of eligibility for playing in three church league basketball games. I can’t begin to speak about war. I’ve never experienced it. But I can tell you that I’ve experienced plenty of church league basketball games.

Church league is full of undersized former high school stars, church members who happen to be large but have no actual basketball ability, and old men who have two goals: cheap shot anyone in another jersey color and try to cover his opponent in as much of his own sweat and body hair as possible for 40 minutes.

What church league does not have: organized plays, coaching, competent referees, or players that could otherwise be playing in the NCAA. Personally, after years of learning from some of the best in their class, I’m beginning the transition to sweaty-old-man-who-gets-the-occasional-cheap-shot-in status. I belong in church league. Do I blame the Atlanta church league players who recruited Harries to play after returning from his Mormon mission? Not in the slightest. I’ve been around the church league block for a while, and I can tell you that one goal of almost every church league player is to find a ringer that has actually played competitive basketball recently. If I find that guy, I don’t have to concern myself with pretending to play offense anymore. I can go back to focusing on the avoidance of getting boxed out by that mass of moist back hair.

Maybe Harries’ church league experience was a little different than mine, but I’m willing to bet there was at least one guy in his mid-forties who showed up with knee pads and tried to pick a fight with someone half his age.

On October 21st, the NCAA denied a waiver from Colgate to restore Harries’ full eligibility. On November 7th, it reversed its course. Guess when the story broke to the national media? November 6th.  Like Ms. Boone before him, Mark Emmert has discovered he doesn’t really have any control. And if he’s going to keep up the façade, he’s going to have to give the people what they want occasionally. Especially if all they want is common sense.

Will the NCAA learn its lesson? Probably not. Will the students in first period math figure out that if they finally revolt, the NCAA will tuck its tail and run home? Hopefully. But until then, at the end of the day, Ms. Boone still collects her check.

Written by
Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021. One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines. Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide. Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports. Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.