Marcus Lattimore came within two hours of being ineligible for his first collegiate game, head coach Steve Spurrier revealed on a national radio program Tuesday.
Lattimore was not cleared to play by the NCAA until 5:30 p.m. before last year’s 7 p.m. kickoff against Southern Miss, Spurrier told Dan Patrick on the "Dan Patrick Show." Lattimore “and a couple freshmen” ran afoul of the NCAA after accepting a free dinner from a man he knew from his hometown of Duncan, Spurrier said.
“Some guy from his hometown took them out to dinner at the Outback one night, and that’s an extra benefit. I didn’t know about it,” Spurrier said. “When we found out about it, we turned it into the SEC and NCAA. We turned it in as soon as we found out about it, and I think he had to pay back $10. He didn’t know he couldn’t go out to dinner with some guy he knew from back in his hometown.”
The State reported on the incident last year after documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act revealed that seven football players accepted free meals from the same man, making them ineligible pending an NCAA ruling. The State did not report the names at the time because they were redacted from the documents.
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One player, whom the documents indicate was Lattimore, received five free meals for a total value of $79.78. Two other players received four free meals each valued at $76.09 and $57.42 respectively. All seven players had to pay back the money in the form of donations to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
The meals came from Outback, California Dreaming, Blue Marlin and Grilled Teriyaki.
South Carolina officials interviewed the person who took the players to dinner and determined he was not a “representative of the University of South Carolina’s athletic interests,” according to documents. The man did not attend USC and never purchased season tickets or donated money to the school, according to a letter written by USC director of compliance Jennifer Stiles to the NCAA.
However, the man indicated to at least one of the players whom he took to dinner that he did give money to USC at one point.
“I didn’t think that he was a booster, but at dinner he did say that he use (sic) to give to the program, but he doesn’t anymore,” one of the players wrote in a note submitted to the NCAA along with his reinstatement application.