By The Associated Press
STARKVILLE — The NCAA has ruled Mississippi State forward Renardo Sidney will have to repay $11,800 in improper benefits and sit out the remainder of this season and nine games next season if he wants to play for the Bulldogs.
Sidney, a highly regarded recruit who grew up in Jackson, Miss., and played at a Los Angeles high school, received preferential treatment and improper benefits because of his talent, an NCAA statement Friday. The statment also said he violated ethics rules by providing false or misleading statements.
“Our members have made it crystal clear that student-athletes who receive impermissible benefits, either directly or indirectly, and who lie to the NCAA must be held accountable,” said Kevin Lennon, vice president for academic and membership affairs.
The 6-foot-10 freshman forward has been with Mississippi State all season, but has only been allowed to practice while the school and NCAA conducted an often contentious investigation.
Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said the school will appeal the penalty.
“Sid is a great kid and I’m glad we finally have a decision,” Stansbury said. “Now we can move forward with the appeal process.”
Sidney attorney Don Jackson said the NCAA failed to nail the player on major accusations that his family received free housing and a loan based on Sidney’s future earnings potential, so they accused him of lying to cover up wrongdoing. Jackson said the accusation hinges on Sidney’s memory lapses of a single trip he took as a ninth-grader five years ago.
The NCAA did not give specifics on the violations.
“It’s like charging someone with murder, then when you can’t convict them of murder, you turn around and convict them of speeding and charge them with perjury for saying they didn’t commit murder,” Jackson told The Associated Press.
Jackson also disputes the repayment figure. The NCAA said the investigation found Sidney and his family benefited from money from a nonprofit organization — an AAU basketball team — for personal gain, including free travel and accommodations, athletic gear and training.
Jackson says if Renardo Sidney Sr. took money and used it to buy food for the team’s players, but didn’t keep proof, the NCAA simply added that to the bill.
“They were basically amounts that (the Sidneys) could not prove how they had been used,” Jackson said. “But (the NCAA) could not prove they were being used improperly.”
Jackson says he has not talked to the family about Sidney’s future plans, but that it’s his understanding Sidney will stay at Mississippi State and play next season when cleared.
Mississippi State athletic director Greg Byrne said in the news release the school will continue to support Sidney.
“We felt from the beginning Renardo deserves the opportunity to be both a student and athlete at Mississippi State, and this is still our belief today,” Byrne said.
AP Writer Chris Talbott contributed to this report.