January 10, 2010 12:08:00 AM
Danny P Smith -
Friday was an eventful day in the eligibility case of Mississippi State freshman basketball player Renardo Sidney, who hopes to still get a chance to play for the Bulldogs sometime this season.
After Sidney''s attorney Donald Jackson came out with criticism of the MSU athletic department with the way it''s handled the investigation of his client to this point, the NCAA Eligibility Center sent out a notification of "statement of facts" in the case.
The NCAA has been investigating Sidney''s status as an amateur athlete since he signed with Mississippi State on April 30, 2009, and everyone connected with the case believes the release of "statement of facts" was a positive move. The "statement of facts" spells out findings from the six-month investigation to indicate if there are any violations with Sidney.
"This is a major step in resolving this matter," MSU Associate Athletic Director for Compliance Bracky Brett said.
Brett indicated any timetable given on Sidney being cleared would be speculation.
The NCAA has said that if MSU doesn''t dispute anything in the "statement of facts," then a ruling on Sidney''s eligibility can be made.
Jackson''s office got word from the NCAA on the "statement of facts" by the close of business on Friday and was encouraged by the latest development.
"It represents some movement in this case," Jackson said. "It is my hope that (Friday''s) events will increase the level of cooperation between all parties and help move this along."
Jackson has been disappointed in the way MSU has handled Sidney''s situation and made those feelings known in an email Friday morning.
Later in the day, Jackson said he''s shared his concerns about the MSU athletic department, specifically Athletic Director Greg Byrne, for several months and "the concerns have not been addressed and I am focused on getting this young man cleared."
His dealings with the athletic department attorney Mike Glazier and Brett have been cooperative, but Byrne has been a different story.
"I do not believe that (Byrne) has been proactive as he should have been in a case of this nature, nor has he been as proactive as the former Athletic Director (Larry Templeton)," Jackson said. "I believe he has an obligation to the student-athlete to do so."
In the lengthy email Jackson sent, he wrote that in a previous case involving former MSU basketball player Mario Austin that Templeton and Interim President Charles Lee were actively involved in significant aspects of the case. He said the men went as far as taking University aircraft to Indianapolis to argue Austin''s case to the NCAA Membership Services staff.
The efforts of Templeton and Lee were successful as Austin was cleared to play for the Bulldogs.
Jackson doesn''t see why Byrne doesn''t use the same avenue in Sidney''s behalf.
He said the current athletic department has decided to take a different approach in this case and it appears MSU and Byrne have been "brow-beaten" into assisting in the denial of Sidney''s rights.
"MSU representatives participated in a meeting in my office on Dec. 23 when NCAA staffer Steve Webb acknowledged that they have no "on the record" statements to establish a violation," Jackson said. "In effect, the NCAA has badgered and intimidated this athletic department into sacrificing a student athlete. Statements from athletic department personnel (from early on) regarding the University''s protecting their interests now appear to imply that the University''s protection of their interests translates to their sacrificing this student-athlete without justification."
After Jackson came out with his comments, Byrne issued a statement later in the day saying that his department has "been at the forefront of the attempt to establish (Sidney''s) eligibility."
"Mississippi State has cooperated fully with the NCAA in providing complete and accurate information and has encouraged all other parties involved to do the same," Byrne said. "We have spent countless hours in conversations with the NCAA."
Byrne indicated that Southeastern Conference Commissioner Mike Slive, MSU President Dr. Mark Keenum, Brett and Glazier visited Indianapolis last month at the University''s expense to resolve Sidney''s eligibility concerns with NCAA Vice President of Academic and Membership Services Kevin Lennon and his amateurism and eligibility staff.
That disputes Jackson''s claim that Byrne hasn''t been willing to go to Indianapolis.
"We continue to communicate directly with the NCAA for Mississippi State and in Renardo''s behalf to attain his eligibility," Byrne said.
The questions with Sidney''s eligibility stem from possible violations on how his family paid rent on a home in the Los Angeles area while they lived there and the financial dealings between Renardo Sidney Sr. and Reebok. Reebok supported the summer league team Sidney Sr. coached and his son played for in Los Angeles.
Even though he hasn''t been actively involved in the process of getting Sidney eligible, MSU basketball coach Rick Stansbury believes Byrne, Keenum and Brett have done everything necessary to reach a resolution.
"It''s important to know I''m very supportive of what our administration has done," Stansbury said. "I think they''ve exhausted all avenues in attempting to get Renardo on the floor for us. It''s been a frustrating and drawn out ordeal that unfortunately we don''t have a final answer for."