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Garcia runs out of chances with Gamecocks

A year ago, Stephen Garcia was celebrating the biggest win in South Carolina football history.

On Tuesday, 367 days after Garcia led the Gamecocks to a 35-21 victory over No. 1 Alabama, the embattled fifth-year quarterback was dismissed from the team.

Garcia, who had been suspended from the team five times since arriving on campus in Jan. 2007, was seen packing his belongings Tuesday afternoon to head back to his hometown of Tampa, Fla. Garcia was kicked off the team for failing a random alcohol test last week, two athletics department sources confirmed.

As part of Garcia's most recent reinstatement, the 23-year-old agreed to undergo random tests for alcohol.

"He kind of made his own bed, and this is the culmination of some of those earlier mistakes," Gary Garcia, Stephen Garcia's father, told The State newspaper. "I think he's upset that he's not finishing what he came here to do, and that's win an SEC championship, but he also is maybe kind of relieved to get a little bit out of the eye of the storm and take a breath of fresh air."

Garcia told The Associated Press in a text message that he was "shocked and completely flabbergasted to be honest" by the dismissal.

It was the end of a chaotic two weeks for Garcia.

It started on Sept. 28 with the death of his grandfather, Augie, whom the younger Garcia was very close to. Three days later, Garcia had one of his worst outings, completing just 9 of 23 passes for 160 yards and four interceptions in a 16-13 loss to Auburn. On Oct. 3, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier announced that sophomore Connor Shaw would replace Garcia as the team's starting quarterback for last weekend's game with Kentucky.

The next day, Garcia failed the alcohol test.

Garcia attended his grandfather's funeral on Oct. 5 and rejoined the team last Friday.

Garcia could be seen encouraging Shaw, who threw for 311 yards and four TDs, on the sidelines during the Gamecocks' 54-3 victory over the Wildcats.

"Stephen was positive toward Connor," Spurrier said.

South Carolina played three quarterbacks in its lopsided victory over Kentucky, but Garcia was not one of them.

On the surface, nothing appeared to be wrong with Garcia.

"The death of my father, along with the Auburn loss and being benched contributed to that violation," Gary Garcia told The State. "This has got to be the worst two weeks of his life, but it's not going to be the worst two weeks in his life going forward, I can tell you that. You deal with trials and tribulations, and you learn from it. Hopefully, he continues to learn and grow. We'll let the dust settle for a couple weeks and then look at what his options are."

"Being a student-athlete at the University of South Carolina is a privilege, not a right," Hyman said, "We remind all of our student-athletes that there are consequences for their actions. For Stephen to return to and remain with the football squad this fall, we agreed on several established guidelines. Unfortunately, he has not been able to abide by those guidelines and has therefore forfeited his position on the roster. We wish him the best of luck as he moves forward in life."

Garcia, who led the Gamecocks to their first ever SEC East Division title in 2010, finishes his career with 7,597 passing yards, completing 589 of 1,021 passes (57.7 percent), with 47 touchdowns and 41 interceptions. He became the third quarterback in school history to throw for more than 7,500 yards in a career, and also ranks third on the school's all-time lists for pass attempts, pass completions and passing touchdowns.

"We are all saddened that this has occurred," Spurrier said. "We all feel like we've given Stephen numerous opportunities to be a student-athlete here at South Carolina. Obviously, he has chosen not to follow the guidelines of his reinstatement contract. We wish him the best."

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