Mario Austin: Free At Last!!....

STARKVILLE, Miss. -­ Mississippi State University announced Tuesday that Bulldog junior center/forward Mario Austin has been cleared to resume play immediately for the MSU basketball team.

A Subcommittee of the Initial Eligibility Waiver Committee reviewed on Tuesday additional materials supplied by the university and by Austin's attorney. The committee confirmed that Austin was an academic qualifier coming out of Sumter County (Ala.) High School in 2000 during the meeting. The subcommittee had previously determined the NCAA initial eligibility on Austin's certification was granted in error, and the university had withheld the player from competition while the issue was resolved.

"We are most appreciative of the manner in which the NCAA Membership Services staff presented this review to the committee," MSU Director of Athletics Larry Templeton said. "The staff assisted the university in presenting the evidence gathered by the university and Austin's attorney to the subcommittee in a fair and accurate way, resulting in a decision in the best interest of the student-athlete.

"I am proud of Mario, not only in his ability to handle the stress of the past several weeks, but in his attitude and the faith that he had in a lot of people working in his behalf," Templeton said. "Don Jackson did an outstanding job assisting the university, and compiling the additional information that the NCAA needed.

"I also want to thank (interim President) Dr. Charles Lee and (SEC) Commissioner Mike Slive for their time and energy in assisting us during the process," Templeton said. "This was truly a team effort in doing what was right for a young man that has done everything we ask of a student-athlete."

"We're very happy this situation worked out for Mario," head basketball coach Rick Stansbury said. I've said this many a time, as good of a player as Mario is, he's an even better person. That was evident again through this ordeal.

"I want to thank our university, in particular President Lee and Larry Templeton for standing up and fighting for what was right," Stansbury said. "I also want to thank Commissioner Slive for recognizing the truth and personally getting involved. And finally, I'd like to thank Donald Jackson, as Mario's attorney, for standing beside him throughout this matter. We're happy this is all behind us, and we can now move on."

Austin and the remainder of the Bulldog asketball team, ranked 22nd in the most recent USA Today/ESPN Coaches' poll, plays No. 11 Xavier at Madison Square Garden Saturday. The MSU-Xavier game will be televised nationally by Fox Sports and will tip off at 11 a.m. CT.

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