Mississippi State stands by its man -- again

To pay back the shameless enabling of his coach, Renardo Sidney's task the rest of this season is pretty simple:

Average a triple-double, lead Mississippi State to a Southeastern Conference championship and NCAA tournament berth, get a 4.0 GPA and somehow play the next 2.5 months without any more bratty behavior.

Sidney owes Rick Stansbury that much. The coach of the Bulldogs has turned this season into a mockery in an effort to mollycoddle his 6-foot-10 prep All-American.

Right now, Sidney’s career college stat line reads this way: Forty-five games suspended (42 by the NCAA for violating amateurism rules, three by the school); two games played; one loss; one win; and untold amounts of manpower expended in efforts to get him eligible, get him in shape, get him to play nice with teammates and then make excuses for his behavior.

Some return on investment, huh?

On Monday, Mississippi State announced that Sidney’s second indefinite suspension of the season was over after all of two games. The first indefinite suspension lasted a game.

Sidney received the first suspension for a Dec. 21 outburst during practice in Hawaii prior to a tournament there. He played one game, then was suspended a second time after an embarrassing, nationally televised fistfight in the stands with teammate Elgin Bailey.

Bailey, the junior co-captain, is transferring. You can decide how voluntary that is. I am told that this was indeed Bailey’s idea, but last week sources told colleague Andy Katz that Bailey was in danger of being kicked off the team after the fight while Sidney would be retained.

Why the difference between Sidney’s situation and Bailey’s?

Well, everyone says Bailey precipitated the fight in the stands -- and not just by refusing to move his legs and let Sidney past. But Sidney’s fist-swinging response made it clear that neither party was blameless.

So here’s another guess at a contributing factor: Sidney is averaging 15.5 points per game in just 22.5 minutes of playing time; Bailey is averaging 5.8.

One guy is more expendable than the other.

And the fact that State opens SEC play Saturday against Alabama is purely coincidental to the timing of Sidney’s return to active status. No doubt about it.

Even a standard-issue, three-game disciplinary suspension for the fight -- covering 10 percent of the season, more or less -- was too much for iron-handed Stansbury to deliver.

A guy who already has a poor reputation among his SEC peers is coaching like a desperate man.

He gerrymandered the Mississippi State schedule, jamming in December games in order to get Sidney and junior guard Dee Bost (suspended for both academic reasons and for failing to withdraw from the 2010 NBA draft before the deadline) in uniform in time for SEC play. The result was an absolute joke: five games in five days in mid-December (one an exhibition), followed by a whirlwind trip to the Bahamas, Hawaii and Las Vegas.

State took five losses in that silly stretch. The Bulldogs, the overwhelming preseason favorites in the SEC West, are 8-6 and far outside the NCAA tournament bubble.

They won’t make the necessary dominating run through the SEC with Sidney sitting out, so he’s back. Very, very sorry, no doubt. And down to his very, very last chance. Or else. And Rick means it this time.

Understand this: Dan Mullen just took 100 football players to Jacksonville for Mississippi State’s bowl game without incident and played brilliantly against Michigan. But Rick Stansbury’s 15 basketball players couldn’t get through a trip to Hawaii without three suspensions and player-on-player violence in a public setting.

That reflects directly on the leadership and discipline of both coaches.