By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Journal
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Since about May, the drama has been non-stop at Mississippi State.
My colleague, Ole Miss beat reporter Parrish Alford, managed to focus his year-end column on pretty much one topic. I’m afraid I can’t do that.
MSU has gotten perhaps more publicity than ever before, and not nearly all of it good.
You had basketball player Dee Bost not withdrawing his name from the NBA Draft pool in time, leading to a nine-game suspension (and don’t forget about the academic ineligibility). Then you had his teammate, Phil Turner, being quietly shoved out the door.
Then you had phenom Renardo Sidney reinstated by the NCAA but suspended the first nine games of this season.
Then football season started.
In a sudden and tragic turn, a key defensive player, Nick Bell, went from being a starter early in the season to being laid to rest in early November after succumbing to an aggressive form of skin cancer.
A few days after Bell’s death, the Cam Newton scandal blew wide open, and MSU was a major part of it because of the rogue agent runner who offered up the quarterback to State. The Bulldogs wisely said, “No thanks.”
Once the NCAA made its curious ruling on the Heisman Trophy winner, the focus turned fully back to the strong season the Bulldogs were having. In his second year, coach Dan Mullen somehow cobbled together an 8-4 record and Gator Bowl matchup with storied Michigan.
As job opportunities at Florida and Miami came and went without Mullen batting an eye, it’s become more apparent that he’s committed to building a winning program in Starkville. Then he agreed to a four-year, $10.6 million contract this week.
Just before the team arrived in Jacksonville, though, the basketball team was back in the news. Sidney and teammate Elgin Bailey were caught in the act of fisticuffs in Hawaii. Both have been suspended indefinitely, and MSU basketball has become a national laughingstock – and they’re not very good on the court, either.
Bost will return Jan. 8. As for Sidney and Bailey, who knows.
Chances are, the drama will continue in 2011.
Brad Locke (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Mississippi State for the Daily Journal and blogs daily at NEMS360.com.