The ax fell on Ben Axon on Sunday, when South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier announced the tailback would not be accepted to USC.
Axon, a four-star recruit from Bradenton, Fla., was arrested in May in his hometown and charged with possession of marijuana with intent to distribute after police said Axon claimed possession of 23 bags of pot that officers discovered during a traffic stop.
Axon was qualified academically under NCAA standards. But sources said Axon’s borderline grades, combined with his recent arrest, were the reason USC officials turned him down.
Unlike two years ago when Spurrier railed against USC’s administration for denying a pair of players who were NCAA qualified, Spurrier had no arguments with the Axon decision.
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“He just wasn’t admitted. And as coaches, we understand why he wasn’t admitted,” Spurrier said. “There’s a lot of players all over the country that are NCAA qualifiers, that universities don’t admit. So we understand that. I don’t want to go into all the reasons, but that happens sometimes.”
Spurrier said he remains hopeful defensive end prospect Leon Mackey will be admitted. Officials are gathering Mackey’s data from his different schools, including an online program at BYU that came under NCAA scrutiny a couple of years ago.
As for Axon, the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder is expected to contact West Virginia and Purdue, two schools that recruited him.
“I know there’s going to be a lot of schools looking at him because he’s a special player,” USC running backs coach Jay Graham said. “I hope things work out for him.”
In a blog post on The State’s Web site last week, Axon attempted to tell his side of the arrest. He wrote that he never told police the marijuana belonged to him and characterized the situation as being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
A man answering Axon’s cell phone on Sunday hung up after a reporter identified himself.
Gamecocks freshman tailback Jarvis Giles, like Axon a Tampa-area product, met Axon during the recruiting process. Giles said the two had exchanged text messages about what Axon could expect at USC.
That was before Sunday’s news.
“Hearing that, I feel sorry for him,” Giles said. “I wish the best for him. I hope he can get accepted somewhere else. Golly, that’s terrible.”