It’s easy to get cynical here at SbB headquarters, what with all the golfers robbing banks, soccer moms assaulting wheelchair kids and Alonzo Mourning-Janet Reno death matches. And now the candy machine is busted! I want a Clark Bar! Thankfully, I can cure my cravings for sweets in other ways: Like with this sugary, sappy story.
Meet Mississippi State hoops center Jarvis Varnado, who has led the nation in blocks for two years straight, and propelled the Bulldogs to an SEC title and NCAA Tournament appearance last season. Despite this, he’s suddenly playing as a walk-on. What happened to his scholarship? Here comes the feel-good part I was telling you about.
With incoming players John Riek and Renardo Sidney both signed by the Bulldogs for this coming season, coach Rick Stansbury found himself one scholarship player over the NCAA limit of 13. So Varnado put his name in the NBA draft, thus giving up his scholarship, with the understanding that he could then take out a loan to pay for his senior year of school. Yep, the kid went into debt so that another player could attend college, and the Bulldogs could get that much stronger.
Varnado tested the NBA Draft waters before withdrawing in May. Now, he’s like quite a few of his classmates — indebted to student loans for the $5,151 that it costs for a full-time undergraduate student per year at Mississippi State.
Bracky Brett, MSU’s associate athletic director for compliance, said the arrangement is OK by NCAA rules and is no different than when any of State’s other walk-ons incur student loan debt to pay their way through school.
If Sidney and/or Riek are not cleared, Varnado could be placed back on State’s scholarship roll.
But for now, Varnado, who led the nation in blocked shots the last couple of years, appears to be the leading candidate for the title of nation’s best non-scholarship player.
Thanks to the JACKSON CLARION-LEDGER and BEYOND THE ARC for saving this otherwise depressing day. And I guess I’m a Bulldog fan now. I shall celebrate with a Three Musketeers! (Vicious cycle begins anew).
BTW, Brooks informs me that Washington State point guard Taylor Rochestie did the same thing following the 2006-07 season.