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Taking a pass on a basketball star

Both USC and UCLA withdrew scholarship offers to Renardo Sidney. Sources say the family's finances scared off the schools.

May 04, 2009|Lance Pugmire

Formerly a confidant of Renardo Sr. and a past colleague of Rivers, Vaccaro said he was not sure how the Sidneys were covering their expenses. Asked if the family could afford their current lifestyle on support from shoe companies alone, he quickly answered, "No."

Spokeswoman Stacey Osburn said that although the NCAA had only loose guidelines for what club teams could receive from sponsors, rules were in place to discourage the use of nonprofits to funnel money directly to athletes. She added that any player receiving compensation from sources such as a sports agency or college booster would be subject to stiff penalties.

At both UCLA and USC, the final decision on Sidney was made at administrative levels above the head coach, sources at the schools said.

UCLA coaches thought that ending their recruitment of Sidney was a potentially colossal mistake, the sources added, but watching their counterparts at USC go for a roller-coaster ride eased the frustration.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Wednesday, May 06, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 41 words Type of Material: Correction
Basketball star: A story in Monday's Section A about USC and UCLA withdrawing scholarship offers for Fairfax High basketball prodigy Renardo Sidney Jr. incorrectly identified Renardo Sidney Sr. as the player's stepfather. The family's attorney says he is the biological father.

Over just a couple of months, the Trojans thought themselves contenders, then not, then were surprised to learn they were back in the game. Late last year, USC thought it had little chance of landing Sidney -- until, a source said, Coach Tim Floyd was informed otherwise by a high-ranking Nike executive during the Trojans' early January trip to Oregon to play the Ducks in Eugene.

Over the coming weeks, other sources confirmed that USC was, indeed, still in the running. But a university source said Floyd was uncomfortable enough that he sought the advice of his bosses before continuing with recruiting.

Then, in mid-February, with Sidney about to commit to UCLA, the Bruins reversed field and USC became the player's school of choice.

It was at that point, on Feb. 18, that USC took the unusual step of inviting Sidney and his parents to meet not only with Floyd but with Athletic Director Mike Garrett and school legal counsel, sources in the athletic program said. Four days later came Sidney's announcement to great fanfare that he would become a Trojan when the spring signing period came around.

Last week, a family source said Sidney learned he had cleared what was thought to be the final hurdle before he would officially sign with USC -- he posted a score on his Scholastic Aptitude Test that, combined with his grades in core classes, made him college-eligible. But within days, the same family source and others privy to information from the Trojans basketball program confirmed that the school and player had parted ways.

USC sources said administrators told the coaches to back off, as had happened at UCLA. And the source close to the Sidneys said the feeling was mutual given that "neither side wanted an impending investigation hanging over them."

Duane Cooper, a former Trojans player who later worked for a sports agency and is now boys' basketball coach at Compton Dominguez High, believes there could only be one reason for USC's retreat.

"They must have a bad feeling," he said. "Otherwise, why give up on a kid from your area who's one of the top two or three players in the country?"

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lance.pugmire@latimes.com

Times staff writer Eric Sondheimer and researchers Vicki Gallay and Robin Mayper contributed to this report.

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