By Brad Locke/NEMS Daily Jouranl
The good news: Renardo Sidney will finally get to play for Mississippi State.
The bad news: The NCAA says he still has a big debt to settle before suiting up.
The NCAA announced Friday that the 6-foot-10 freshman must sit out the remainder of this season as well as 30 percent – nine games – of next season, and he must repay $11,800 in impermissible benefits the NCAA says he received.
Barring a successful MSU appeal – and an appeal is forthcoming, the school said Friday – that will be the end result of an amateurism evaluation of Sidney that began about 10 months ago. The McDonald’s All-American signed with State last spring and then came under scrutiny after a Los Angeles Times article raised questions about his family’s finances.
Sidney said in a statement Friday that he will be back for the 2010-11 season.
“I am glad the process is over with,” he said. “I can go to sleep knowing I can play next year. I just want everybody to know I’m coming back next year. God does everything for a reason, and this is no different.”
According to a statement issued by MSU on Friday, Sidney lost a year of eligibility due to unethical conduct during the investigation, and next year’s suspension is for what the NCAA called “benefits received from preferential treatment.” Those benefits were in no way tied to MSU
In a statement, the NCAA said, “The university found that the student-athlete violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when he provided false or misleading information throughout the eligibility process.”
As for the improper benefits, the NCAA said Sidney and his family “benefited by using funds from a non-profit organization for personal gain, according to the facts presented by the university. These funds would not have been available were it not for the student-athlete’s athletic skills and reputation. Preferential treatment in this case also included hotel accommodations and other travel expenses, as well as free athletic gear and training.”
Sidney’s father, Renardo Sr., coached his son’s AAU basketball team, which was funded by a non-profit organization set up by the elder Sidney.
The younger Sidney will repay the money to a charity to be chosen by him and the school. He can set up a payment plan over the life of his eligibility.
Exhibition games will not count as part of next season’s suspension. Kentucky’s John Wall was suspended two games at the beginning of this season for receiving $800 in improper benefits during unofficial visits to colleges. An exhibition game was allowed to count against the suspension.
Don Jackson, the Sidneys’ attorney, blasted the NCAA’s decision. He said the improper benefits charge stemmed from the Sidneys’ inability to produce receipts for every expense related to the AAU team, and that the gear he received was nothing beyond what his teammates received.
“Bottom line, this decision is a transparent attempt to justify a yearlong investigation that started out focusing on million dollar homes,” Jackson said in an e-mail to reporters. “When the L.A. Times’ version of the ‘facts’ wound up not to be true, the Eligibility Center created their own.”
MSU supports Sidney
MSU said it had “immediate plans” to file an appeal to the Division I Student-Athlete Reinstatement Committee.
“From the beginning, Dr. (Mark) Keenum (MSU president) gave us the charge to provide every resource available to help Renardo gain his eligibility, while maintaining the integrity of the university,” MSU Athletics Director Greg Byrne said. “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.”
Sidney cannot take a redshirt this season, so he will be a sophomore next season should he decide to return.
MSU coach Rick Stansbury, whose Bulldogs close out their regular-season slate today against Tennessee, said, “Sid is a great kid, and I’m glad we finally have a decision. Now, we can move forward with the appeal process.”
Contact Brad Locke at 678-1571 or firstname.lastname@example.org.