Mississippi State men’s basketball players Renardo Sidney and Elgin Bailey have been suspended indefinitely and sent home from the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii for their part in a fight in the stands at the event late Thursday night.
State officials have confirmed both players were sent home from Honolulu Friday on separate planes and will not be playing today in MSU’s consolation game against tournament host Hawaii at 3:30 p.m. as well as the contest against St. Mary’s Wednesday in Las Vegas.
“I want to apologize to Mississippi State, the people in Hawaii and fans that were in the stands that witnessed everything,” Bailey said in a university statement.
Sidney and Bailey, who are roommates on campus and on road trips, were caught by ESPNU cameras throwing punches in the stands for about 10 minutes before the tip of the game between Hawaii and Utah at the Stan Sheriff Center. The video shows Sidney and Bailey fighting before senior forward Kodi Augustus and walk-on forward Taylor Luczak pulling Sidney away. Mississippi State assistant coach Marcus Grant, along with a Hawaiian security guard, then led Sidney down to the playing court.
Sidney was eventually escorted out of the arena by Honolulu police but nobody was arrested. Bailey was immediately taken from scene via a taxi.
“I'm very sorry for this incident,” stated Sidney. “I had no intention of this ever happening. I apologize for embarrassing my family, all the Mississippi State fans, my teammates and coaches. I will learn from this and move on."
ESPN color analyst Doug Gottlieb, who was preparing to call the Utah-Hawaii game at the media table when Thursday’s fight broke out, was able to describe the scene.
“It was a bizarre scene and one that I’m sure was scary for the people in the arena and in the stands near where it happened,” Gottlieb said. “For a kid (Sidney) that has serious pro aspirations, I can tell you also there was 20 NBA scouts in the stands watching every bit of that.”
According to the release sent out the university, the length of the suspension will be up to the players' actions going forward and the coaching staff will reassess the situation when the Bulldogs return to campus.
“The actions that took place Thursday night in Hawaii were embarrassing to all of us who love Mississippi State University and our athletic program,” Mississippi State athletics director Scott Stricklin said. “This behavior will not be tolerated.”
Stricklin told the Starkville Daily News that the decision to send both players home from the Aloha state and suspend them indefinitely was made with combined input from him, Mississippi State president Mark Keenum and men’s basketball head coach Rick Stansbury.
“In my 13 years as a head coach, we’ve never had anything like this happen before,” Stansbury said. “I am very disappointed in the actions of Elgin Bailey and Renardo Sidney and in no way does it reflect the overall picture of our program.”
Sidney, a former McDonald’s All-American, was suspended one game after an incident occurred during a practice Monday at the University of Hawaii. According to sources close to the situation, Sidney’s practice incident involved altercations with coaches and teammates while the team prepared for its holiday tournament.
After the Monday incident, Sidney was forced to sit during the Bulldogs’ 83-57 loss to Washington State in the first round of the event.
Hours before the fight with Bailey, Sidney came off the bench to lead the Bulldogs (8-4) in scoring with 19 points while grabbing six rebounds in 19 minutes during State's 69-52 win over San Diego Thursday afternoon.
When State plays Hawaii (8-3) for fifth place in the tournament, it will be severely challenged in the frontcourt without Sidney, Bailey and sophomore John Riek. University officials confirmed Riek, a 7-foot-1 center, was unable to meet the team in Hawaii after having passport issues stall his ability to make the trip to the Bahamas for State’s 88-57 loss to Virginia Tech on Dec.18. MSU spokesperson Gregg Ellis stated Friday that MSU expects to have Riek for the St. Mary’s game Wednesday in Las Vegas.
Last March, the NCAA levied a two-part penalty on Sidney that included a year of eligibility due to unethical conduct and nine games of this season due to impermissible benefits received prior to when he signed and arrived on the Mississippi State campus. Sidney had to repay the $11,800 in benefits he received to a charity both he and MSU determined was appropriate.
Bailey, who was named co-captain of the 2010-11 team as a junior, sat out the entire season last year while recovering from his severely dislocated ankle. The 6-foot-8 forward is averaging 5.8 points along with 4.3 rebounds and assumed the starting center role during the first nine games of Sidney’s suspension.
“Due to me being a captain, I should have handled the situation in a much different way,” Bailey said. “It should have never gotten to the point that it did. I really am sorry that all of this happened, especially with it unfolding on TV like it did.”
In the preseason, Bailey was the one Sidney credited as a motivating force in his peer group that not only kept him in Starkville to play for the Bulldogs during the this season but help him keep his mind on the game when the chances seemed dim that he would ever suit up for Bulldogs.
“I call him my little brother and you look at the things I’ve been through – they’re just life situations,” Bailey said during SEC Media Day in October 8. “I’ve sat out in high school (due to a Louisiana prep rule involving transfers) and sat out last year (with an injury). He knew where I was coming from because Renardo was used to playing.”
In his first regular season game in a Mississippi State uniform, Sidney had a team-high 12 points and three rebounds before fouling out in the loss to Virginia Tech in The Bahamas.