December 24, 2010
Whatever worst-case scenario Mississippi State coach Rick Stansbury envisioned when he took a chance by signing Renardo Sidney two years ago, it could not possibly have been any more embarrassing than what unfolded Thursday night.
TV cameras caught Sidney and fellow Mississippi State big man Elgin Bailey throwing haymakers at each-other in the stands prior to a nationally televised Diamond Head Classic game between Hawaii and Utah. Sidney landed a flurry of punches before assistant coach Marcus Grant intervened and separated the two teammates with the help of a handful of fans seated nearby.
[Rewind: NFL star gets rewarded for in-game brawl]
Mississippi State suspended Sidney and Bailey indefinitely on Friday afternoon, but sidelining Sidney for a handful of games is an insufficient punishment. Stansbury needs to admit he erred taking Sidney in the first place and dismiss him from the program because the talented but troubled big man has demonstrated that his immaturity is a greater burden than his skills are a boost.
It's possible Sidney didn't cause the fight with Bailey since ESPN's cameras didn't catch how it started, but it's difficult to give him the benefit of the doubt in this scenario. The 6-foot-8, 265-pound Bailey is a team captain who has no history of altercations with teammates prior to this one.
On the other hand, this is just one of the many lowlights for Sidney:
• 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 Wednesday's Diamond Head Classic opener as a result of an altercation with a teammate in practice.
That Sidney would implode this quickly is a tad surprising, but those who followed his career arc aren't shocked the former No. 1 high school big man in the nation's star has faded. There were so many questions about Sidney's eligibility and immaturity when he was in high school that hometown schools USC and UCLA both reneged on scholarship offers and Mississippi State was the lone marquee program to seriously recruit him.
The most galling aspect of this for the Mississippi State coaching staff has to be that they've kowtowed to Sidney in every way imaginable the past two years.
They offered him a scholarship when nobody else would touch him. They shelled out thousands of dollars to support him during the NCAA's year-long investigation into his amateur status. And they designed their entire schedule around him this season, banking that the team could survive nine games against weak competition without him and then thrive against the meat of the non-conference slate once he returned.
Mississippi State actually beat San Diego on Thursday behind a 19-point, 6-rebound performance from Sidney in his second career game, but the bigger picture for the Bulldogs is fairly bleak. They lost to East Tennessee State and Florida Atlantic earlier this season and got blown out by Virginia Tech and Washington State, leaving them without a marquee non-conference win just two weeks before the start of SEC play.
In the aftermath of the ugly fight involving Sidney and Bailey, suspended Mississippi State point guard Dee Bost tweeted his support to his beleaguered teammates.
"Just feel bad that our fans and every1 has to witness this happen all I can say is SORRY!!!!!," Bost wrote. "All I can do is pray that my teammates straight forreal bc we can be something special, it'll turn around trust me."
Bost is correct that Mississippi State has time to reverse its fortunes. It's just highly unlikely Sidney will still be around to help.
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