Stephen Garcia has rejoined his South Carolina teammates on the football field.
For now, it’s only for summer workouts and on a “probationary” basis, but it’s the first step for the senior quarterback’s full return to the Gamecocks’ good graces.
The school announced Monday that Garcia’s indefinite suspension, which started April 6, was ending so he could participate in the team’s voluntary summer workouts. Garcia met with athletics director Eric Hyman on Monday morning and participated in team meetings later in the day.
“Stephen is returning to the team on a probationary basis and still has to do some things here for the next two or three months to prove himself worthy of being a student-athlete at South Carolina,” head coach Steve Spurrier said in a statement released by the school. “We will give him another chance, and hopefully he can do the right things and represent the university in a first-class manner.”
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Spurrier hinted during most of his stops on this month’s Gamecock Club speaking tours that Garcia’s return was imminent. Most of the Gamecocks players returned to campus this week for the beginning of summer workouts, which cannot be attended by Spurrier or his on-field assistants but are considered vital for team development.
Hyman stressed, via the statement, that Garcia has more benchmarks to clear before his reinstatement is official. Garcia’s most recent suspension, his fifth since joining the team, came after he was disruptive at a Southeastern Conference-mandated life skills event. Garcia had alcohol on his breath at the event, a source with knowledge of the situation told The State.
Garcia has attended counseling sessions with Dr. Timothy Malone, a Columbia psychiatrist who is the athletic department’s director of wellness, since the incident, according to a source.
“Being a student-athlete at the University of South Carolina is a privilege, not a right,” Hyman said in the school’s statement. “We explain to all of our student-athletes that there are consequences for their actions. Our main goal for Stephen at this time is to assist him in developing the decision-making skills that are needed for managing life in general, whether as a student-athlete, a person, an employee, a spouse or a parent.
“With assistance from others, we have developed a list of measurable guidelines for Stephen to follow. I want to make it clear those guidelines, which will remain confidential, are designed to help him live a successful life and are not some trivial hoops for him to jump through in order to find a way to reinstate him. So the ball clearly rests in Stephen Garcia’s hands.”
Garcia’s final clearance won’t come until before fall practice, which begins on Aug. 3. Hyman and Spurrier, who are expected to be in Destin, Fla., starting Tuesday for the SEC’s spring meetings, could not be reached Monday for further comment.
Garcia, who has started 28 straight games for South Carolina, was suspended twice during spring practice this season. He missed the first week due to an incident in December during the team’s trip to Atlanta for the Chick-fil-A Bowl.
Garcia is third in school history in passing yards (6,753) and touchdowns (43) entering what would be his senior season. His returns likely means the Gamecocks will be picked to repeat as the SEC’s Eastern Division champions.