Monday, May 4, 2009

Why did USC pass on Renardo Sidney?

Last week, we mentioned how USC, who had gotten a commitment from top 10 recruit Renardo Sidney, had decided to withdraw their scholarship offer after Sidney passed the SAT's.

Over the weekend, the LA Times published an investigative piece potentially exposing the Sidney's. From the article:

Though they are from rival schools who often wage intense battles for the same athletes, the sources agreed on this about Sidney: The reward of suiting up such a prodigious talent was not worth the larger risk.

Bruins and Trojans sources both say they were wary of potentially intense NCAA scrutiny prompted by these issues: Despite what was perceived as a limited income, the family moved multiple times and resided in upscale homes during Sidney's high school years; and stepfather Renardo Sr. directed a club basketball team with financial backing that was unclear beyond a relatively modest shoe company sponsorship.

Plus there was this: A source intimately familiar with Sidney's recruitment said a university official thought the stepfather had strongly hinted that he expected to be compensated if his son signed with the school.
The article continues on to say that after Sidney played for a year with the Southern California All-Stars, in 2007 his father started the LA Dream Team, mainly to pursue the shoe contracts and appearance fees that come with running an AAU program with elite players.

(photo credit: Slam)

Other inflammatory allegations in the article:
  • The Sidney's rented a $1.2 million house for $4,000-$5,000 a month. Renardo Sr. was an assistant at a medical center before he and his family moved to SoCal from Mississippi.
  • Renardo Sr. accepted $20,000 from Sonny Vaccaro, one of the most well-known figures (who at the time was associated with Reebok) when it comes to shoe companies "recruiting" high school age stars, for their move.
  • Renardo Sr. accepted at least another $20,000 from Reebok (not from Vaccaro this time) to play in a tournament in Las Vegas. Vaccaro's successor acknowledged paying him, but would not divulge the amount.
For the record, it is not against NCAA violations for Renardo Sr. to receive money from a shoe company to sponsor his AAU program. As far as him accepting this money while his son, who also happens to be one of the most prized recruits in the country, plays for the team is another story.

I still don't think we know the whole story here, as most of the sources cited in the article say that they didn't know how the Sidney's were able to afford their lifestyle.

What I do know is that there has to be something pretty serious looming for two powers to essentially cut off all recruiting ties with a local player of this caliber.

For the record, neither school has a squeaky clean reputation either. UCLA's teams under John Wooden were notorious for completely ignoring the NCAA rulebook (they were named as the dirtiest team in the history of NCAA basketball by Esquire in March). In 2006, Bill Walton published a book where he infamously stated
It's hard for me to have a proper perspective on financial matters, since I've always had whatever I wanted since I enrolled at UCLA.
Still don't believe it? Google the name Sam Gilbert.

The Bruins have also dealt with issues regarding Jim Harrick's tenure in Westwood, and as recently as last season, Kevin Love's AAU coach was given $250,000 to try and get Love to sign with a specific agent from Cerruzzi Sports and Entertainment.

And USC has been far from innocent, especially recently, as they have had to deal with the fallout from Reggie Bush and OJ Mayo. Even Mississippi State, where Sidney has signed, has had their own issues with the NCAA. Dontae' Jones was the Rebels star during their 1996 run to an SEC Tournament title and a Final Four appearance. He also managed to flunk off the basketball team his senior season in high school, and ended getting a job cooking chickens. But once MSU heard about him, he somehow managed to get eligible over the course of summer school (this article from the NY Times explains it all).

I don't know how all of this is going to play out, but I can all-but guarantee that after the article the LA Times published, there will be an NCAA investigation.

I just hope it doesn't ruin the Rebel's potential this season.

No comments: