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Mississippi State misses chance to make a statement to Renardo Sidney

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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It's apparently going to take more than trading a few haymakers with a teammate on national television for highly touted Mississippi State big man Renardo Sidney to get booted off the team.

Eleven days after Sidney and teammate Elgin Bailey got into a fist fight in the stands at a tournament in Honolulu, coach Rick Stansbury announced Sidney has been reinstated and will play in Mississippi State's SEC opener against Alabama on Saturday. Stansbury also said Bailey will transfer to another school.

"It's time to move on and learn from these mistakes," Stansbury said in a news release issued by the school. "Hopefully, by sending Sid and Elgin home following the incident, a strong message was sent that this type of behavior is unacceptable."

It's certainly no shock that Stansbury chose to keep Sidney around because he has invested so much in the talented but troubled big man, but the reality is that the Mississippi State coach missed his chance to send a "strong message."

The strong message would have Stansbury admitting he erred taking Sidney in the first place and dismissing him from the program. Instead, Stansbury's actions suggest that immaturity and embarrassing behavior will be tolerated if you're potentially an impact player (Sidney) but not if you're an expendable role player (Bailey).

You can argue Bailey may have been the instigator or that others have committed worse offenses than a fist fight without facing severe punishment, but the pattern of behavior with Sidney is what's disturbing.

• He sat out the first 45 games of his college career at Mississippi State as a result of allegations that he accepted extra benefits while bouncing between high schools in Los Angeles.

• Upon returning from an 18-month absence last week, Sidney was in such poor shape that he could only log 15 minutes in his exhibition debut as a result of cramping and fatigue.

• Sidney's return from NCAA-mandated purgatory lasted all of one game before he was suspended for the Diamond Head Classic opener as a result of an altercation with a teammate in practice.

By not penalizing Sidney more harshly, Stansbury has essentially put his future in Sidney's hands.

If Sidney and a returning Dee Bost revitalize Mississippi State's floundering season and lead the Bulldogs to the postseason, Stansbury will avoid further criticism for showing leniency. If Sidney gets into another altercation with a teammate and the media catches wind of it, it will be Stansbury who bears the brunt of it as much as the troubled 6-foot-10 sophomore the next time.

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