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 degree.”
Ridley dressed out for every practice during the past two weeks, though reps were cut down from his norm.