MSU Dragging Their Feet on Renardo Sidney?Posted by rtmsf on January 8th, 2010
Thanks are due to Mike DeCourcy for staying on top of this story. He writes today that Don Jackson, the attorney for Renardo Sidney who is handling his case with the NCAA over eligibility, is unhappy with Mississippi State for, as he put it, “abdicating it’s obligation to protect the interests of their student-athletes.” Citing instances of MSU officials failing to assist his office in moving things along, he places the blame for Sidney’s continued status in limbo squarely on the athletic department’s foot-dragging in this matter.
Clearly Jackson is attempting to assign blame on anyone but himself for failing to make his client eligible to play this season, but what would you do if you were Greg Byrne, the Mississippi State athletic director? When he approved the recruitment of Sidney by Rick Stansbury last summer, it was undoubtedly a strategic play that he believed could result in a Final Four appearance for a talented Bulldog team. The thinking probably went along the same lines as most cost/benefit analyses do — make the risk assessment and then let the findings inform a decision tree with respect to how to pursue Sidney’s eligibility. If there was no chance of Sidney ever becoming eligible, MSU wouldn’t have given him a scholarship in the first place (see: UCLA and USC). But they had to believe that there was a fighting chance that they could get him on the court this year with the NCAA’s blessing, or they wouldn’t have offered him the scholarship.
Since it’s clear MSU never intended on playing him without confirmation of eligibility, the possible risk was minimal — merely the cost of one scholarship to Rick Stansbury’s team, and likely only that for a single season until Sidney goes pro. The potential benefit, however, was huge. Sidney possesses the soft touch and athletic ability that few 6’10 players this side of DeMarcus Cousins and Greg Monroe offer in college basketball this year, and the prospects of putting him on a long, athletic frontline with Jarvis Varnado must have had Stansbury and his boss drooling in their cheese grits. Only the NCAA knew how hard they were planning on pursuing the records on Sidney’s domicile while in Los Angeles, and for a program like MSU that aspires for greater national recognition, it was well worth the gamble.
The problem came, of course, when it became clear last fall that the NCAA intended on playing hardball with Sidney’s family (and by proxy, his attorney) about the homes they rented in Southern California during his high school career. We imagine that there must have been a conversation among the MSU athletic department brass where they realized that Sidney simply was not going to be approved without some evidentiary fax machine copy explaining everything magically appearing under Stansbury’s desk (that’s for you SEC fans out there). Sidney’s family wasn’t going to be able to explain everything the NCAA wanted to know, and Mississippi State certainly couldn’t create the requisite evidence out of thin air.
So what would you do if you were Greg Byrne? Probably the same thing that Donald Jackson is accusing his athletic department of doing. You drag your feet. The clock is ticking, and as of this afternoon, Sidney would only have a half-season to play if were deemed eligible. If a few more weeks pass, you start questioning if his addition to the team would hurt more than it would help. Besides that, MSU has already proven that they’re pretty darn good. They start SEC play this weekend with a 12-3 record including wins over UCLA, Old Dominion, Houston and San Diego. Along with Ole Miss, they’re one of the two favorites to win the SEC West. And there’s no reason to believe that if things continue to improve, the Bulldogs could make a run to the Sweet Sixteen behind their talented starting five. The rub is… they’re just not Final Four material without Sidney. But at Mississippi State, you don’t have to be, and Byrne knows that. Two months more, and Sidney will be well on his way to meet David Stern, and this calculated gamble will have been a failure, but one with almost little in the way of long-term downside. We’d be doing the same thing.