College Sports

Garcia's future with USC a question mark after suspension

The quarterback many South Carolina fans thought would be the Gamecocks' starter this fall will not practice with the team until two weeks before the season begins, assuming he returns to USC at all.

Stephen Garcia has been suspended from all team-related activities until Aug. 15 following his latest run-in with the law, putting the redshirt freshman's future with the Gamecocks in doubt.

USC athletics director Eric Hyman announced the suspension in a two-sentence release Tuesday, a few hours after meeting with Garcia.

In addition, university officials have suspended Garcia from summer school and will require him to adhere to several stipulations, including drug tests and participation in an alcohol counseling program, if he wants to return to USC on Aug. 15 when summer school ends, according to sources close to the situation.

Garcia will be allowed to finish this semester at USC, but must move out of campus housing next week. He would have to ask to be readmitted in August.

Attempts to reach Garcia were unsuccessful. Gary Garcia, the player's father, declined comment.

USC coach Steve Spurrier said he respected the decision made by Hyman and the university.

"I want to do what's best for Stephen at this point. I certainly cannot argue with this penalty. He's had plenty of chances. There's no argument on our side," Spurrier said. "If he can fulfill all these obligations ... and come back in August, we'll take him back then."

Spurrier said Garcia wants to return. If he passes his classes this semester, Spurrier said Garcia would be eligible this fall.

"His attitude now is that he's going to accept a very strong penalty and hopes to return next fall," Spurrier said. "So we'll just have to wait and see if that occurs."

Spurrier said Garcia likely would return home to Lutz, Fla., after the semester ends.

"He was upset. It's very disappointing. His parents are crushed," Spurrier said. "But he said he came to South Carolina to play here, to play for me and coach (David) Reaves. He loves it up here. He wishes he'd been a little smarter in some of his actions."

Garcia has been arrested or charged three times since arriving at USC 15 months ago after graduating early from his Tampa high school. The suspension comes three days after Garcia's second alcohol-related charge.

Garcia, 20, was one of three players cited Saturday evening for underage drinking after campus police found them with coolers of beer in the courtyard between the South and East Quad dormitories. Gary Garcia, 25, the quarterback's brother, was charged with transferring beer to a minor.

Less than five hours later, Garcia told police and firefighters responding to a fire alarm at the dorm that he discharged an extinguisher after noticing sparks coming from his stove. He was not charged in the incident, but was referred to the student disciplinary system.

Garcia also was suspended for spring practice last year after two arrests in a two-week span.

He was picked up for drunkenness and failure to stop on police command last February in Five Points. Two weeks later, he was charged with using a key to damage a visiting professor's car on campus.

He completed pretrial intervention to have two of the charges wiped from his record. A third charge was dropped.

Garcia, rated as one of the nation's top dual-threat quarterback prospects two years ago, has yet to take a snap in a game. The right-hander was competing with Tommy Beecher and Chris Smelley for the starting job this spring.

After USC's first spring practice last week, Garcia said he was looking forward to the competition and that he had learned from his past mistakes.

But Garcia is out of the mix until two weeks before the Aug. 28 opener against N.C. State. Until then, Spurrier said he would get Smelley and Beecher ready and hope for the best for Garcia.

"Hopefully, this will be good for him," Spurrier said.