Several additional South Carolina football players moved out of a Columbia hotel on Thursday evening a week after NCAA officials investigated whether some players received discounted rates - or made any payments at all - to live there for extended stays.
USC coach Steve Spurrier said school officials have asked players to move out of the Whitney Hotel and settle any outstanding bills with the hotel along Devine Street.
NCAA investigators interviewed a number of players last week about their living arrangements at the Whitney, a hotel that features limousine service and has housed Spurrier and other USC coaches in the past.
Spurrier said he was aware players were living at the hotel, but "didn't know all the arrangements."
"But all of our guys are going to pay their bill and hopefully go live somewhere else," Spurrier said. "That's what we hope happens - that they pay their bills up and go live somewhere else. That's about all I can say about it."
Spurrier would not say specifically whether players had gone extended periods without paying rent.
"I can't go into all that," Spurrier said. "They're going to pay their bills and move out is what we have suggested to them to do."
Tight end Weslye Saunders, who is being investigated by the NCAA for possible illegal activity with an agent, is one of the players who were staying at the Whitney. Offensive lineman Jarriel King and defensive tackle Travian Robertson also had rooms there, although sources said Robertson checked out last week.
Defensive backs C.C. Whitlock and Akeem Auguste were seen leaving Williams-Brice Stadium on Thursday about 10 minutes before their teammates.
When assistant head coach for defense Ellis Johnson was asked about Auguste's early exit, Johnson said USC "had some guys, two or three starters, who had to leave early to go get out of the hotel."
Starting defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye also was among those in question about the living arrangements at the Whitney, according to a source close to the situation.
If the NCAA finds the players did not pay to live at the hotel, or received a discounted rate, it could be considered an extra benefit.
Scholarship athletes at USC who live off campus receive a $500 monthly housing stipend.
According to the hotel website, nightly rates range from $93 to $154 for a two-bedroom suite. A hotel employee said extended-stay rates are available, including a $57-a-night rate for one- or two-bedroom reservations of three months or longer.
The Whitney's general manager last week referred questions to the NCAA.
The NCAA does not comment about current investigations, but a spokesperson said the organization is working cooperatively with USC on the inquiry.
USC compliance director Jennifer Stiles has not returned phone messages since the NCAA was in town last week; athletics director Eric Hyman has refused to comment other than to say USC is cooperating is with the NCAA.
"That's a matter that our university's looking into," Spurrier said of the Whitney probe, "and we're trying to comply with the NCAA rules 100 percent as soon as an issue comes up. We're in full compliance, and that's where we are with that."
Johnson, entering his third season at USC, called Thursday's move-out from the Whitney was distracting on a day when the Gamecocks scrimmaged at the stadium.
"Distractions, disruptions, distractions, disruptions ...," Johnson said. "You know, girlfriends are distractions. Classes are distractions. Everything's a distraction.
"We've got to learn how to grow up and get past that, and focus when it's time to focus."