South Carolina redshirt freshman quarterback Stephen Garcia was reinstated by the university yesterday and will begin practice with the team today. After being suspended from school in March, Garcia has been living with his folks in Tampa waiting to find out if he’d be readmitted to the school. The reason for the suspension? In February 2007 he was ticketed for underage drinking. In March 2007 he turned himself in after keying a professor’s car. In March 2008 he was again cited for underage drinking.
Garcia was a big time recruit and graduated early from high school in order to join the Gamecocks in spring semester of 2007. Immediately he got into trouble and didn’t play at all last season, redshirting. His status has been the biggest story here in Columbia for most of the past six months and though it is nice to get a respite from all the speculation, now that he’s officially been reinstated by the school, I’ve got to question their timing and motives.
USC has had its share of off-field problems in the Steve Spurrier era. Several players per year have been arrested for fighting, underage drinking, wielding guns, etc. The school had a perfect opportunity to send a strong message to the football team with Garcia in the spring. He was a well known and high profile recruit and had the school kicked him out permanently, I think other players would have realized that the school is not to be tested along disciplinary lines. Instead, by allowing him to come back after three separate major issues with the police, Carolina has shown that it a) has no guts and b) cares more about its mediocre football team than any modicum of accountability or standards.
The school also allowed him to come back right at the beginning of practice this summer instead of waiting to make their decision on their originally set date of August 15. This timing is curious and makes one wonder about the involvement of the coaching staff and/or outgoing President Andrew Sorensen. The only reason they could’ve allowed him back early, if even at all, was to have the full practice time before the season.
This example of bending over backward for an obvious idiot is exactly what’s wrong with big time college sports. SEC football is so important that all standards of decency are thrown out in the name of beating Florida or Tennessee or whatever. It’s a sad day here in Columbia that is made even sadder by the fact that most people here are actually excited to see him step onto the practice field.
Update: Check out this great article by The State’s Ron Morris