Sidney has not been cleared to compete this season as the NCAA's amateurism arm looks into how his family paid for housing in the Los Angeles area while he went to high school for two years after moving from Jackson, Miss. Sidney has been able to practice, but not play in games or travel. He was home during the school vacation break, but was expected to return to practice once school started.
For months, the NCAA has looked to gain financial information from the Sidney family and has interviewed the pertinent personnel in the case. Jackson said he has given the NCAA what it has requested, but his frustration boiled over this week.
What set the university off was a letter Jackson sent out to members of the media late Thursday night.
Chris WIlliams/Icon SMIWill Renardo Sidney ever suit up for Mississippi State in a game? That's anyone's guess at this point.
Jackson said that in previous cases he has worked cooperatively with athletic departments and cited the case with former Mississippi State forward Mario Austin. He said that then-athletic director Larry Templeton and interim president Charles Lee were actively involved in the case (apparently with him). But Jackson said the current administration has taken a different approach and he made a charge that the school has not protected the rights of its student-athletes -- in this case Sidney.
Jackson said that he tried to get a public records request from Mississippi State in relation to the investigation, but was told that copy costs were making it difficult because of the several thousand dollars it would take to produce the information.
Jackson, who is based in Montgomery, Ala., also said that in a meeting on Dec. 23 the NCAA's Steve Webb said that they had "no on the record" statements to establish a violation with Sidney.
Jackson wrote in his letter: "Statements from the 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."
And then Jackson issued this zinger: "In light of MSU's past compliance history and previous involvement with the NCAA, it appears that the University and the current athletic director has been brow beaten into assisting in the denial of Mr. Sidney's rights. I hope that future student-athletes are not treated in similar fashion by this athletic department and athletic director. Clearly, the current AD is not Larry Templeton."
Mississippi State president Dr. Mark Keenum said that in hiring noted attorney Mike Glazier, who has handled countless infraction cases with the NCAA, the university sought the appropriate council. He also said the SEC has been helpful and that everyone involved was encouraged to keep the issues private, and not discuss them through the media.
Athletic director Greg Byrne responded to Jackson in saying that since the Bulldogs signed Sidney after he became a recruiting free agent once he and USC parted ways, the university has worked to provide the NCAA with "complete and accurate information."
Byrne said, "We initially certified his academic preparation to be a student-athlete at our institution and have afforded Renardo all the support that every other scholarship student-athlete here receives." Byrne said the administration has spent countless hours in conversations with the NCAA, SEC commissioner Mike Slive, Glazier, compliance director Bracky Brett and NCAA vice president for academic and membership services Kevin Lennon.
"We continue to communicate directly with the NCAA for Mississippi State and in Renardo's behalf to attain his eligibility," Byrne said in the statement released from the school.
Jackson hasn't filed a court injunction to get Sidney to play because he has been told the university won't play Sidney unless he is cleared by the NCAA. That's not abnormal considering there is always the shadow of possibly vacating games if Sidney were ultimately deemed ineligible. But Jackson contends that the NCAA still hasn't said a violation occurred.
Later Friday, Jackson received an e-mail from the NCAA's Alex Hammond that said the certification request of Renardo Sidney Jr., was posted on the NCAA's custodial Web site, a password restrictive site to which Jackson said he doesn't have access. Hammond said in the e-mail that the statement of facts in the case would be sent to the amateurism arm to determine if there are any violations. Hammond writes in the e-mail to Jackson, "If we are unable to resolve our differences on the facts, we can utilize the Division I fact-finding committee."
Jackson said that last week NCAA officials told Mississippi State that the formal "findings" would be released a week ago. Apparently, they were released onto the Web on Friday with Hammond's e-mail.
Jackson also had issue with one of the questions during the interview process. He said that Mississippi high school coach Wayne Brent was asked last week by NCAA investigators if Sidney would be ready to play if cleared. Jackson said that this question was unrelated to whether NCAA violations have occurred. Jackson said that Compton High coach Russell Otis was also interviewed.
Ultimately, Sidney remains unable to play for Mississippi State, which opens SEC play with a West showdown at rival Ole Miss on Saturday. The Bulldogs finished the nonconference schedule 12-3 with losses to Rider at home, Richmond on a neutral court and at Western Kentucky. MSU has the best shot-blocker in the country in senior forward Jarvis Varnado (74 blocks) and was projected to have a formidable front line with Varnado and Sidney.
There are no current plans for Sidney to leave school and attempt to play professionally, but there is always the chance he may just declare for the NBA draft in June if he isn't cleared.
Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury said in a statement released from the school that he is supportive of Keenum, Bryne and Brett.
"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," Stansbury said.
Whether Sidney ever plays for Mississippi State seems remote at this juncture. But Jackson did say Friday that the fact-finding release on the NCAA's protected Web site at least showed there was some movement in the case.
At this speed, though, the tortoise may be deemed faster than those involved in pursuing this case.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Late Friday night, NCAA spokesperson Stacey Osburn forwarded this response to Jackson's assertion that the process has been slowed:
"Once again, Donald Jackson's latest comments regarding the Renardo Sidney initial eligibility investigation miss the mark completely. The initial eligibility process is designed to be a collaborative effort between the NCAA, the school and the prospective student-athlete. As a member of the NCAA, Mississippi State University is obligated to work within the framework of the process and they have done so. To suggest otherwise is inaccurate.
Mr. Jackson's comments that imply his client committed no violations are also misleading. Mr. Jackson alleges an NCAA Eligibility Center staff member acknowledged "they have no 'on the record' statements to establish a violation." At that point in time, the NCAA Eligibility Center was still gathering evidence to determine if any violations may have occurred. Since the process was still in the investigative stage and the facts were unknown, any comments on the possibility of a specific violation or numerous violations either occurring or not occurring would have been premature and unofficial. In addition, the staff member in question denies making such a declaratory comment.
Any blame for the case not being resolved belongs with Jackson and his client. Their consistent and ongoing failure to fully cooperate with requests for information dating back to April 2009 has delayed resolution of this matter. To suggest otherwise demonstrates a lack of understanding of the process and a misrepresentation of the facts.
The NCAA Eligibility Center has forwarded the statement of facts for the Renardo Sidney, Jr. amateurism certification review to Mississippi State University. No amateurism certification decision can be made until the statement, which documents the facts of the case, is agreed upon by the Eligibility Center staff and the institution. All future decisions, including whether or not NCAA violations have occurred, are based on the agreed-upon facts. There are appellate opportunities available to the institution as this process moves forward and there is no definitive timeline for how long the process could take."