|June 26, 2009||Byrne Talks Facilities, 'Connectivity'||2 comments|
|June 26, 2009||Sidney's Attorney Responds to NCAA's Response||4 comments|
|June 26, 2009||NCAA Responds: Jackson Causing Delay||3 comments|
|June 25, 2009||Andy Kennedy on Varnado, MSU||3 comments|
|June 25, 2009||NCAA Trying to Delay Sidney Meeting||1 comments|
|June 25, 2009||On the Thursday A.M. Links||no comments|
|June 24, 2009||On a Slow Summer Day, Some Links||no comments|
|June 24, 2009||Sidney Update; On the Links||no comments|
|June 23, 2009||MSU Signee Davis Signs with Cubs||15 comments|
|June 23, 2009||2010: Mullen Controls Mississippi Early||6 comments|
Mississippi State AD Greg Byrne got back yesterday from a three-day tour of several universities and their athletic facilities. He was joined by football coach Dan Mullen, baseball coach John Cohen, president Mark Keenum and others. The group visited (in order) Bayor, Oregon, Oregon State, Nebraska, Missouri and Arkansas.
Byrne talked about the tour and how it will help MSU as it develops a master plan for upgrading and adding to its own athletic facilities. One of the first questions that comes to mind is, why those schools?
"We tried to get to places that budgetarily were in our ballpark," Byrne said. "Nebraska and Arkansas were on the high end of that, but most schools we looked at, their budgets were in the $40-50 million range." MSU's budget for the coming fiscal year will be around $40 million.
Also, he picked the Oregon schools because of that state's similarities to Mississippi in regards to population and income levels.
Byrne said that as for MSU's "master plan" for its athletic facilities, the school is currently in negotations with a company that will help develop the plan, and once the partnership is finalized, it will be about a year before the master plan is set and ready to be put in motion.
The emphasis of this plan: connectivity. Learn that word, because Byrne will be using it a lot when addressing this subject. That, and flow. For instance, he said, "Baylor's done a very nice job with the flow of their facilities – brickwork throughout, and a constant theme."
What else did we learn from Byrne today?
• He said he's not sure what the "definite" next step would before for upgrading Davis Wade Stadium, but he'd like to look at the west side and north end, as well as the locker room.
• The basketball practice facility is awaiting design approval by the Bulldog Club board. MSU's also in final negotiations with a contractor and is finalizing a finance plan. The cost of building the facility will be $11-12 million.
• Football season ticket sales are, as of today, at 35,291 (including 10,000 student tickets).
Some other excerpts from the interview:
• On finding a unique identity, like Oregon: "Part of the thing we’re going to be working on is what we want to represent, and how we’re going to go about getting there."
• On Dudy Noble Field: "Dudy Noble certainly has the atmosphere and feel we’re so proud of and don’t want to ever lose. At the same time, too, what are our next steps with that to improve the facilities long term?"
• On Nebraska's facilities upkeep: "They do a good job of keeping things up-to-date to where things get eight, nine, 10 years (old), they’re saying, ‘OK, what’s the next step with that?’ That’s one of the things we’re working on as well with the future here."
I'll have more on this topic at a later date.
Donald Jackson has been tied up most of the day, but he got back with me a few moments ago to respond to the NCAA's response to his comments that they are holding up the amateur evaluation process of MSU signee Renardo Sidney. (Got that?)
To review: Jackson said Thursday the NCAA was trying to delay a scheduled July 1 (Wednesday) meeting between the two sides. The NCAA, in an e-mail from media relations director Bob Williams, then said that Jackson is the one holding things up by not sending the requested information in a timely manner.
OK, back to the here and now. Jackson said the information, in the form of a booklet (200-300 pages, he said) is being shipped overnight to NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis. He also said that he thinks the NCAA – specifically Angie Cretors, who's handling the investigation – will have ample time to review the documentation and prepare for interviews of the family at Jackson's Montgomery, Ala., office next week. Jackson said he offered to push it back to Thursday.
"I think that’s more than enough time, because (the documentation's) as straightforward as it can be," he said. Jackson added that he didn't receive a physical mailing address until about lunchtime today.
As for the response from Williams, Jackson said, "The individual that responded, to my knowledge, had no involvement in this case. His opinion about my response is not overly relevant."
As for the information Jackson compiled and sent off, it includes affidavits from about a dozen people, financial records, leases, etc. Anything and everything – except bank statements – to give the NCAA a picture of how the Sidneys lived while in Los Angeles. The major questions concern Renardo Sidney Sr.'s ties to a shoe company and a $1.2 million house the family lived in.
"It’s almost a chronology of their time in Jackson all the way through Los Angeles leading all the way back up to today," Jackson said.
He added that there will be "minor supplementation" of information in the coming week, such as other affidavits.
The NCAA doesn't normally comment on ongoing investigations, but an exception has been made for Renardo Sidney. The impetus: Comments made by Sidney's attorney, Donald Jackson, who said yesterday that the NCAA was trying to delay next week's interview with the Sidney family.
Bob Williams, managing director of public and media relations for the NCAA, replied to another news outlet yesterday and then to me as well. I had tried earlier in the week to contact the organization, to no avail.
Here is Mr. Williams' full statement, via e-mail, regarding the matter:
"Mr. Jackson has mischaracterized the facts related to the Renardo Sydney case. The NCAA postponed the meeting with Mr. Jackson and Mississippi State officials next week due to Mr. Jackson's failure to provide all requested documents. The request was made on May 7, 2009 with the stipulation that the documents be received in ample time to review prior to any meeting. As of today, the requested documents have not been received. Contrary to Mr. Jackson's comments, the quickest way for this case to be resolved is for him to provide all documents requested in a timely manner."
Jackson said he would send the documents no later than today. A call to his cell phone this morning was not immediately returned.
I spoke earlier today with Ole Miss basketball coach Andy Kennedy. The main subject was a story I'm doing about one of his players, Terrico White, and MSU's Jarvis Varnado, both of whom are playing for Team USA in separate international tournaments. White's on the 19U team, Varnado's on the World University Games squad.
I asked Kennedy about MSU, which looks to be the favorite to win the SEC, especially if Renardo Sidney is cleared by the NCAA. Kennedy rattled off State's strengths: last season's finish, Dee Bost at point, senior Barry Stewart ("seems like he's been there forever"), Varnado, etc.
Kennedy was in Colorado Springs earlier this week watching White and Varnado's teams practice. The two squads scrimmaged each other Monday. Of Varnado, he said, "I really believe when you look at Jarvis Varnado, not only in our league, but I think he’s one of the most impactful guys in the country on the defensive end of the floor."
Kennedy likes Varnado's offensive game, too. Varnado has said he expects to open up his arsenal this year. "He was a very difficult matchup last year. He was so long and athletic, and they did such a good job extending the floor," Kennedy said.
Ole Miss actually played Varnado well last season. In two games – the series was split – Varnado scored a total of 17 points (6-of-12 shooting) with 21 rebounds and three blocked shots.
As reported by the AP a few minutes ago, the NCAA is wanting to delay its scheduled July 1 meeting with MSU signee Renardo Sidney and his family. Family attorney Donald Jackson said the NCAA told him that it needed more time to prepare for the interviews dealing with Sidney's amateurism evaluation. Jackson doesn't believe them.
"I don’t think they have anything," Jackson told me. "At this point, I don’t think they’re prepared to come in and lay anything out as to what they allege this family has done."
The two sides are scheduled to meet at Jackson's office in Montgomery, Ala., next Wednesday. The Sidneys arrived in Jackson last night, where they used to live before moving to Los Angeles in 2006. They'll be in Montgomery by Monday or Tuesday.
Jackson said he is near sending all the necessary documents to the NCAA – he'll fax it either today or tomorrow to both the NCAA and sports attorney Michael Glazier, who's being retained by MSU for this case. Jackson said he will fight to keep July 1 as the interview date.
"I sent an e-mail (to the NCAA) earlier this morning saying, ‘Listen, there’s no reason we shouldn’t be doing this now,'" Jackson said.
Angie Cretors, the NCAA's assistant director for Agent, Gambling and Amateurism Activities, is handling the Sidney case. Jackson's already had trouble with her, having gotten an out-of-office replay to an e-mail he sent her last week. The NCAA does not comment on ongoing investigations.
Jackson's not surprised by the delay. It's common in such eligibility cases.
"It doesn't hurt (Sidney), other than the fact that his family has a desire to put this whole thing behind them," Jackson said. "We don't want to be dealing with this come Oct. 15."
Preseason drills begin in mid-October.
Been perusing Phil Steele's info-packed football mag this morning. The man is unbelievably thorough. Making me kinda dizzy trying to digest it all, so let me take a break and provide y'all with some links this morning:
• SEC rules: LSU beat Texas last night, 11-4, to capture its sixth CWS title and first since 2000. You'll recall that MSU won its series opener against LSU this year before dropping the next two. The finale clinched the SEC regular-season title for the Tigers. On another note, I think ESPN showed more shots of Les Miles than they did Paul Mainieri this week.
• Man down: Speaking of LSU, its football team lost a key receiver to injury, and he might be out for the season. It wasn't Brandon LaFell, so they'll be OK.
• Mental game: For Kentucky RB Derrick Locke (my cuz … really), coming back from a career-threatening knee injury tested his mental toughness, we read in today's Louisville Courier-Journal.
• Playoff punted: The BCS big wigs rejected the playoff proposal by the Mountain West Conference. Gee, what a surprise.
Today's Random Link: Ozzie Smith, my FPOAT (Favorite Player of All Time), will manage the U.S. squad in the All-Star Futures Game next month in St. Louis. His former Cardinals teammate, Jose Oquendo, will direct the World team.
Got a few SEC-related links for y'all to help pass the time today if you find the weather too sultry for your liking.
• Bert Bank, the man who started the Alabama Football Radio Network and a Tide legend for other reasons, too, died Monday night. Ian Rapaport of the Birmingham News provides the details. Bank was 94.
• How does Auburn plan to use all that money from the new TV deal? In part, to help out the academic side.
• Florida is all for extending the contract it has with Georgia for their annual clash in Jacksonville. Not so fast, says Georgia.
• For all of you gambling addicts – because who else would bet on this stuff? – the Orlando Sentinel tells us that BetUS.com has odds on which schools is most likely to run afoul of the NCAA. Odds-on favorite: USC, at 8/1. Among SEC teams, Florida and Ole Miss are 10/1 odds.
Note: My column is being pushed back, should run Friday.
Donald Jackson, attorney for Renardo Sidney and family, should soon send off the paperwork requested by the NCAA for its amateurism evaluation of Sidney, the 6-foot-10 MSU signee from Los Angeles. Here's the story from today's Daily Journal.
Having represented many college athletes in eligibility cases, Jackson has learned to provide not only the information requested, but more. To speed up the process, he's anticipating the NCAA's next move.
"So what we’re trying to do is answer questions before they’re even asked," he said.
As noted in the story, the Sidneys and the NCAA will meet for interviews at Jackson's office in Montgomery, Ala., early next month. So stay tuned.
• Our friend Robbie Andreu of the Gainesville Sun has made five predictions for the 2009 SEC football season. Among them: This is gonna be a tough year for Dan Mullen's Bulldogs. Wrote Andreu, "Looking down the schedule, it's hard to see Mullen winning more than four or five games this season."
• The College World Series championship series heads to Game 3 tonight after Texas beat LSU 5-1 on Tuesday (sorry no link; it's acting weird today). Frankly, I think this event can be just as exciting as the NCAA basketball tournament; but then, I'm a big baseball guy.
Today's Random Link: It's Day 3 at Wimbledon, the only tennis tournament I'll watch all year.
Runey Davis, an outfielder out of Howard College in Texas, signed with the Chicago Cubs on Monday, MSU assistant coach Lane Burroughs confirmed this evening. Davis, who signed with State in the fall, was drafted in the 12th round.
This was not unexpected. In fact, head coach John Cohen said last week's three signings (all pitchers) were made partly in anticipation of Davis' going pro.
"We were gonna actually have to make some really difficult scholarship decisions if he would have come to Mississippi State," Cohen said. "We would’ve done that, but we were planning on him not coming. We just felt like he was gonna sign."
Davis was drafted by the Pirates out of Georgetown (Texas) High School but turned down good money. Burroughs said Davis didn't want to make that "mistake" again.
So why sign a kid who plans on going pro? Well, it wasn't so clear-cut back in the fall. "The evolution of process is you sign them, then you keep up with a lot of professional scouts in the area, and as time goes on you just keep making educated guesses," Cohen said.
MSU's 2009 signing class now officially stands at 18 players. I'll have more on the team and how Cohen's dealing with the scholarship limit in Thursday's Journal.
We're more than seven months away from National Signing Day, but who cares? The way new MSU coach Dan Mullen finished off the 2009 signing class, and considering his goal of winning the in-state recruiting battle, it's worth looking at the early progress.
Our good friends at Scout.com have compiled their top 30 Mississippi prospects for 2010. Of those 30, MSU has made offers to 24 of them, including each of the top 17 players. So far, State has picked up three verbal commitments: S Michael Carr (West Point), TE Cordell Giles (Ray Brooks) and WR Brandon Hill (West Lowndes).
Now, let's compare those numbers with Ole Miss. The Rebels have made offers to 16 of the top 30, including 11 of the top 17, and have gotten zero verbals from the group.
What does this mean? It means Mullen has made a good first impression on the state's players and coaches. Of the 27 signees in MSU's 2009 class, 21 of them played high school or juco ball in Mississippi.
Of the 38 signed by Ole Miss, just seven hailed from Mississippi schools, and the Rebels have a history of pulling recruits from out of state. Mullen's more than willing to go beyond our borders, too, because at the end of the day, what's most important is getting the best talent you can.
It's early, but it looks like Mullen may well win the in-state recruiting battle.