Les Miles has been where Steve Spurrier was Monday night.
“When you have to take a very productive player and tell him, ‘It’s not working out for you here,’ it’s not something that anybody enjoys,” LSU’s coach said. “It’s a miserable event whether it’s a quarterback or anybody in your program. You are hammering wishes and goals and dreams.”
Spurrier learned Monday night that senior quarterback Stephen Garcia would be kicked off South Carolina’s football team the following day, Spurrier said Wednesday. Garcia was dismissed by athletics director Eric Hyman after failing a random substance test for alcohol. Spurrier and Garcia had a conversation Monday about Garcia having a good week of practice and being supportive of new starter Connor Shaw, Spurrier said.
“You’re one injury away” from being the starting quarterback again, Spurrier told him at the time.
Spurrier was upset when he learned the news, he said.
“I don’t like it. I don’t like it,” he said. “I wish he had stayed. I wish he could have finished his career as a Gamecock one way or another.”
Spurrier called Garcia on Tuesday afternoon.
“My final conversation with him was between he and I,” Spurrier said.
Miles went through a similar situation with former Tigers quarterback Ryan Perrilloux, who was suspended multiple times before finally being dismissed in 2008. Perrilloux’s final straw reportedly was a failed drug test.
“It’s a difficult thing,” Miles said. “What you continue to hope and you communicate is there are the choices you need to make as opposed to those you have made. There is a want to redirect the path. I think every coach extends as many opportunities to that player as he possibly can because you see the great potential in him as a player and a person. At some point in time, the player is who is he is.”
Backup quarterback and former Garcia roommate Andrew Clifford spoke to Garcia after the dismissal.
“He is taking it pretty hard, but I think he is taking responsibility for his actions,” Clifford said. “We all support him. We are going to miss him, but I think our team is ready to go.”
Spurrier addressed Garcia’s absence briefly before practice, junior quarterback Seth Strickland said.
“He just came out and said what it was, said, ‘Stephen’s gone, and we have to move on,’ ” Strickland said.
The dismissal won’t be a distraction, Strickland said.
“He’s supporting us, and we are still going to support him,” Strickland said. “Hopefully, it is best for both parties. We are going different directions, but hopefully he’ll make the best out of this and the team will make the best out of this.”
Two former Gamecocks offered their support of Garcia on Twitter. Patrick DiMarco, who captained the team last year, tweeted “The University of South Carolina has lost a great QB, a great friend of mine, and a great teammate to all us Gamecocks #gonnamissyou5,” on Wednesday.
Former wide receiver Tori Gurley wrote, “My prayers go out to my boy Garcia Keep your head up bro!!” on Tuesday on the messaging web site.
Garcia was 61-for-118 (51.7 percent) this year for 844 yards, four touchdowns and nine interceptions. His nine interceptions led the country at the time of his benching. He ends his career tied with Steve Taneyhill for second in school history with 20 wins. He is third in school history in passing yards (7,597), touchdowns (47), completions (589) and attempts (1,021).
He started more games for Spurrier than any quarterback other than Danny Wuerffel.
“I have read that some of these people around here didn’t think I praised him enough, but I try to praise all our players according to how they perform and their commitment level and so forth,” Spurrier said. “It’s unfortunate what happened to Stephen, and it’s all over now. We don’t need to rehash it.”