DESTIN, Fla. | South Carolina handled the Stephen Garcia situation the right way, university president Harris Pastides said, and he is unconcerned if that opens the school to criticism.
The Gamecocks on Monday allowed their senior quarterback to return on a probationary basis from his fifth suspension.
“I think in many ways it would have been easier to go the other way,” Pastides said Thursday at the SEC spring meetings. “The heat indicates that the easier decision might have been to say, ‘He’s done.’”
Garcia has “high bars” of conduct to maintain in order to be reinstated, Pastides said. He would not disclose those conditions.
“He may or may not be the starting quarterback in the fall, but I am confident the university acted in the best interests of Stephen Garcia,” Pastides said. “We’ll see how he performs. If he does well and if he does stay on the straight and narrow, he’ll have a better future than if we had gone the other route.”
The feedback Pastides has received from alumni and other educators at the meetings has been split down the middle, he said. The school’s decision had nothing to do what happens on the football field, Pastides said.
Garcia is the third-leading passer in school history, and his return likely will make South Carolina the favorite to repeat as SEC Eastern Division champion.
“That has nothing to do with it,” Pastides said. “I come from a public-health background, and we put the young man’s interest first. I was totally unconcerned about the performance of the team.”
Pastides doesn’t seem as pleased with the way his school has handled the issue of oversigning.
He called the practice “a bad thing,” but he stopped short of saying he will vote today to outlaw it.
“My goal is that every single athlete that we sign has a shot at playing. We need to be looking at their academic capabilities. That’s a commitment that we are making,” Pastides said. “I know there have been problems in the past, not only with our university but with others as well.”
The Gamecocks signed 28 players in February, the maximum allowed by the SEC, although only 25 will be allowed to enroll in the fall. Unless three or more of those players fail to qualify academically, South Carolina will be forced to tell at least one player he must delay his enrollment.
The Gamecocks already had told two players who were verbally committed that they could not sign scholarships.
“If we’re giving our word to a young person that they can have a scholarship to play on one of our teams, and they live up to their end of the bargain, that person ought to be part of the team,” Pastides said.