DALLAS --- For a moment, freshman running back Spencer Ware
thought that he would be the man to suit up and start for the Tigers in the
75th Annual Cotton Bowl Classic on Friday night.
Then, just days before the game, word came across that the NCAA
had cleared Stevan Ridley despite the fact that less than two weeks ago he had
been ruled academically ineligible and would have to miss the end of the year
bout with Texas A&M.
“(Ware) was kind of expecting to start, but he didn’t care,”
Ridley said of his backup’s reaction to the news, which was announced on Monday
evening at a team meeting. “We have a very unselfish team. We don’t care how we
get it as long as we get the job done.”
Ridley met with the media on Tuesday morning for the first
time since the allegations surfaced, though no clarification was brought forth
as to the specifics of the incident. When the news surfaced sources told
TigerSportsDigest.com that the ruling involved cheating on a test after the
regular season ended.
“The NCAA just had to get the case and look into it a little
bit further,” Ridley said. “I think they came out with the right outcome … I
maintained my innocence. Any time you have questions coming up about your
character, you have to believe that the people around you will make things
right. They did an awesome job of fighting for me.”
Had the ruling been upheld Ridley would have been ineligible
for an entire season, meaning that the junior would not be able to play in a
game until bowl season in 2012. With the option to go pro, the decision is a
big win for those hoping to have the Natchez, Miss. native back for a fifth
year with the program.
“I really was (nervous),” Ridley said. “I am just glad the
NCAA came through with the ruling so that I can come back next year and get my
Ridley dressed out for every practice during the past two
weeks, though reps were cut down from his norm.