South Carolina freshman wide receiver Damiere Byrd has been cleared to play in Saturday’s game against Auburn, according to the NCAA student-athlete reinstatement staff.
“I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am for Damiere,” Athletics Director Eric Hyman said in a statement. “Our folks in the department worked tirelessly to address the issues they encountered with Damiere’s situation. With the NCAA’s cooperation, we were able to resolve the issues in a timely manner that will allow him to play on Saturday.”
Byrd was ruled ineligible for the first four games of the season after the NCAA alleged he received $2,700 worth of recruiting inducements and extra benefits from the SAM Foundation, a non-profit organization near his New Jersey home.
It was believed he was all set to make his debut after those four games were complete. Then South Carolina’s coaching staff received new information that put Byrd’s eligibility in doubt, coach Steve Spurrier said Thursday night on his weekly radio show on 107.5-FM.
SAM Foundation president Steve Gordon told The State on Thursday night that Byrd’s new issue “has nothing to do with my organization.”
“It’s a minor thing, but because of the previous (stuff) I guess they are erring on the side of caution,” he said, declining to discuss it further.
Byrd spoke Wednesday night about how excited he was to make his collegiate debut.
“These past four weeks have been like an extended preseason for me,” he said. “I am pretty much ready to be out there on the field and put on that Gamecock uniform. It’s been hard, but my teammates help me a lot, my family and we have a good support staff here at South Carolina so it’s been not as hard as you’d think.”
Byrd was a star in preseason camp mostly due to his breakaway speed. He was a national-level sprinter in high school and proved very adept at catching deep passes in South Carolina’s preseason scrimmages.
“He’ll be out there playing,” Spurrier has said.