If team discipline at South Carolina was run like an actual criminal justice system, most of quarterback Stephen Garcia's four-year career would have been spent on some level of probation — he'd been on campus barely a month when he picked up a charge in 2007, the first of three alcohol-related arrests in his first year — and it was only on the strength of three years of good behavior that his latest transgression last December didn't cost him a spot on the team. This time, per an official release from the university, he may not be so lucky:
University of South Carolina senior quarterback Stephen Garcia has been suspended indefinitely from the football program, Athletics Director Eric Hyman announced today.
"Being a student-athlete at the University of South Carolina is a privilege, not a right," said Hyman. "We have expectations for our student-athletes and we make them aware that there are consequences for their actions. Stephen has exhibited behavior that is unacceptable for one of our student-athletes. Therefore, he has forfeited the privilege to participate in any football related activity until further notice."
Garcia told the Associated Press the suspension didn't involve any arrests and isn't drug of alcohol related, but the fleet of reporters hovering around the program unanimously suggest otherwise. SEC-centric blogger/radio host Chuck Oliver reports that Garcia arrived at a mandatory meeting for all Carolina athletes Tuesday night "smelling of booze" and became "belligerent" to those in charge. Gamecocks beat writer Travis Haney of the Charleston Post & Courier confirms the rumor that Garcia "poorly represented the school." Scott Hood at Gamecock Central reports Garcia was "apparently told to leave the event after some inappropriate and disruptive behavior." John Whittle of BigSpur.com says Garcia showed up "past drunk."
As salacious rumors go, coming in drunk and disorderly doesn't quite match the tales of epic pregame partying that reportedly led to Garcia's suspension for the start of spring practice last month (although that depends on just how "disorderly" we're talking about), but it's certainly enough to violate his probation. And with five boozy strikes on his record, it's probably enough to put his college career in the past tense.
As inevitable as that end may seem now, it's worth recalling that Garcia had seemed to turn a corner. Whatever it was that went down prior to the Chick-Fil-A Bowl, it came almost three years after his last arrest/suspension in March 2008. In the meantime, Garcia lost the "Wild Thing" locks, remained in good standing and entrenched himself as the full-time starter in a rising program that hit a new high last fall with its first SEC East championship and had another bright season ahead with virtually all of the stars of the 2010 team coming back. He was a success story, a kid who learned his lesson, matured and slowly grew into a leadership role. Instead, he may be on his way out as a 23-year-old who drinks his way into strikes four and five in the span of a few months.
Maybe there's still time for that to change again: Garcia has not been officially booted from the team, and presumably has a sliver of hope of returning this fall as long as the "indefinite suspension" doesn't become an outright dismissal. But Steve Spurrier had already given up hope that his quarterback would ever change, and you can't help thinking that this time, the wait for the axe to fall this time probably isn't going to last very long.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.