Three of the South Carolina football players linked to the Whitney Hotel situation missed practice or were late Tuesday while dealing with issues related to their residency at the Shandon-area hotel, according to a Gamecocks assistant coach.
Defensive backs Akeem Auguste and C.C. Whitlock did not attend practice, while starting defensive tackle Ladi Ajiboye arrived late. Assistant head coach for defense Ellis Johnson indicated the players were meeting with university officials about their involvement with the Whitney.
“I can’t comment much on it. They’re cooperating with the process that we’re going through right now. I’m sure that’s what they were doing,” Johnson said. “Now, exactly what they were doing, I don’t know. But it’s getting through the process.”
USC officials continue to deal with the fallout at the Whitney, where sources said as many as 10 players stayed for several months over the spring and summer.
Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier last week asked the players to move out of the hotel and repay any outstanding balances after NCAA investigators questioned whether players received free or discounted rent at the six-story hotel that has housed Spurrier and other USC coaches.
Spurrier said last week he knew players were staying at the Whitney but did not know what their lease agreements were.
Johnson said coaches were not sure about the severity of penalties players could face if the NCAA determines they broke rules. If the NCAA finds players were allowed to pay cheaper room rates than those available to the general public, it could be considered an extra benefit.
“All we know is there are a lot of possibilities (for penalties), and that’s as much as we’ve been informed,” Johnson said.
Tight end Weslye Saunders, whose status remains in doubt after he was questioned by the NCAA about possible illegal activity with agents, is one of several starters who stayed at the hotel. Offensive tackle Jarriel King and defensive tackle Travian Robertson are among the others.
Johnson last week called the situation at the Whitney a distraction, but he did not seem as bothered by Tuesday’s developments.
“Those guys have all been playing three years each, if not more. Not a major issue,” he said. “We just hope we’ll have ’em and be prepared to play Southern Miss.”