College Sports

USC president supports Spurrier

USC president Andrew Sorensen was on vacation when Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier ripped the administration for denying admission to two of his recruits.

But it did not take long for the news to reach Sorensen in upstate New York: During Sunday's media day proceedings, Spurrier threatened to leave USC if the admissions process for athletes is not changed.

In his first public comments since Spurrier's rant, Sorensen on Friday voiced his support for Spurrier and said he wants to streamline the process.

"I've known him for a long time," said Sorensen, who was at Florida when Spurrier was the Gators' coach. "My reaction is that he and I have talked when we were recruiting him. We've talked since then about my intense support for him and my desire to to see him coach here a long time, and I've never wavered from that belief."

Spurrier, who agreed to a contract extension in December that pays him $1.75 million a year and runs through the 2012 season, was upset that USC turned down defensive back Arkee Smith and receiver Michael Bowman, both of whom were qualified under minimum NCAA standards.

A group that includes athletics director Eric Hyman, provost Mark Becker, compliance director Val Sheley and other officials will study the issue and recommend changes to Sorensen by the end of September.

Bill Bearden, USC's NCAA faculty athletics representative, said this week the university should not automatically admit athletes who meet NCAA standards. Sorensen said it was "premature" to discuss his position on that point until the group had met.

One change that appears imminent is screening athletes prior to February's Signing Day. Herbert Adams, chairman of USC's Board of Trustees, met separately with Spurrier and Becker this week to discuss that possibility.

With earlier screenings, Adams said the football staff would give the provost's office grades and test scores of the Gamecocks' top targets in November or December. The provost would respond by letting the coaches know which recruits looked questionable for admittance.

Appeals would be made before Signing Day rather than during the summer.

"Clearly, the lateness in the summer in making that final decision is undesirable," Sorensen said.

Eddie Floyd, a longtime trustee and former board chairman, criticized Sorensen for not addressing the situation sooner. Floyd said recent admission debates over USC men's basketball recruits and Clemson football prospects should have prompted Sorensen to examine the policy.

"We had plenty of notice this was coming. It wasn't like it was a blindsided thing," Floyd said. "We had trouble with our basketball players. We didn't have a set policy. Clemson had this trouble, and they got a black eye. And we got a terrible black eye. Why?"

Floyd, who said Spurrier's remarks were justified, saved the blame for Sorensen.

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