March 5, 2010 3:59:00 PM
David Miller -
The lengthy saga and NCAA investigation surrounding the eligibility of Mississippi State University freshman Renardo Sidney has come to ruling after the NCAA reached a decision to bench him for nine games next season and make him repay $11,800.
Sidney will also sit out the remainder of this season, the NCAA said in a news release Friday.
The NCAA ruled similarly to what its Eligibility Center outlined in its findings based on the case statement of facts. Those results were disputed by Sidney attorney Don Jackson and the school. Still, the NCAA''s Amateurism Fact-Finding Committee outlined multiple violations. The most crucial resulting from a trip Sidney and his father took to Los Angeles in 2006.
The answers to the questions surrounding that trip, which Jackson said were "I don''t know," are what triggered the unethical conduct charge -- basically, lying -- that worried Jackson when the Fact-Finding Committee released their findings.
Sidney''s other violations that were detailed by the Fact-Finding Committee revolved around receiving excess Reebok gear, workouts with a trainer in 2007 and a credit line the family received in California.
Said Kevin Lennon, vice president for academic and membership affairs, in the NCAA''s news release: "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," stated Kevin Lennon, vice president for academic and membership affairs.
"This case is about more than a single student-athlete. One of our core responsibilities is to ensure a level playing field for all student-athletes and their teams. No team or individual should have an unfair advantage."
The NCAA''s release also stated that Sidney and his family "benefited by using funds" from a non-profit organization.
"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."
Shortly after the NCAA''s release and ruling, which will see Sidney sit nine games next year with exhibitions still in question, MSU issued a release saying it will appeal the nine games (or 30 percent of the season) Sidney must sit.
It must be noted that Sidney was ruled ineligible for this season due to the unethical conduct charge, and the nine games he must sit next season stem from the benefits he must now repay. He can set up a restitution plan over the course of his eligibility.
"From the beginning, Dr. (Mark) Keenum (university 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."
The tone of the case between Jackson and the NCAA often resulted in disagreements over whether Jackson and the Sidneys were providing all the information the NCAA requested, or whether the NCAA was trying to punish Sidney by delaying the case because of weak evidence.
An excerpt from the NCAA''s release:
"The NCAA made repeated requests for specific information related to the eligibility of Sidney beginning in April 2009. However, he and his attorney failed to promptly and accurately reply to this information, which caused multiple delays in reaching a resolution in the case.
In contrast, the NCAA received the final reinstatement request with all agreed upon facts on Friday (February 26) and rendered its decision within a week."
Jackson did not immediately return messages left Friday afternoon.
Where Sidney goes from here is unknown, as his options include staying at State and beginning next year as a sophomore, or testing the NBA waters now that he''ll be one year removed from high school by the next draft in June. Having not played a competitive game this season, it may be tough crack the first round and get guaranteed money in his rookie deal.
"Sid is a great kid, and I''m glad we finally have a decision," said 12th-year Bulldogs coach Rick Stansbury in the school''s release. "Now, we can move forward with the appeal process."
The team, however, has Tennessee on its mind when the No. 16 Volunteers enter Humphrey Coliseum Saturday for Senior Night.