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Dad: Garcia ‘committed’ to USC

AUGUSTA — South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier stood alongside the 17th fairway at Augusta National chatting with the parents of suspended quarterback Stephen Garcia during Thursday’s first round of the Masters.

Gary and Debbie Garcia wore Gamecock gear and talked about how their son is committed to seeing things through at USC. But Spurrier said his visit with Garcia’s family should not be construed as a sign the troubled freshman is guaranteed to return to the team this summer.

“It’s got nothing to do with his situation,” Spurrier said. “He’s got a bunch of requirements to fulfill, and when he does it we’ll welcome him back and worry about it then.”

Garcia, 20, was suspended until Aug. 15 after being cited for underage drinking last month outside his dormitory. It was the third time Garcia was arrested or cited in his first 15 months at USC.

The Tampa-area native was kicked out of campus housing and prohibited from taking summer school classes at USC. In addition, he must complete several stipulations, including alcohol counseling and drug testing, before he can apply for readmission in August.

Gary Garcia said his son was “doing terrific” personally and academically, and intends to be back at USC in August.

“We’re Gamecocks and the family’s just sticking together. We’re rallying around Stephen. He has to do what he’s got to do with school,” Gary Garcia said. “The people in South Carolina have been terrific and gave us unbelievable support and phone calls. He thought that he should stick to his commitment to South Carolina, and we’re sticking with our commitment to him.”

Asked if he considered recommending a transfer and a fresh start for his son, Gary Garcia said: “Never. Not one time. We’re just committed. We’ve run into problems. We take our licks, address the problems, then come back and learn from it.”

Garcia, rated one of the country’s best dual-threat quarterbacks in the recruiting class of 2007, was expected to compete with Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher for the starting spot this spring.

But Garcia and two teammates received underage drinking citations after police found them with coolers of beers hours after the Gamecocks’ second spring practice. Garcia’s older brother, Gary Jr., was ticketed for transferring beer to minors.

Although two of Stephen Garcia’s incidents involved alcohol, Gary Garcia said he does not believe his son has a drinking problem.

“Not now, we don’t,” he said. “But we’re going to spend our time and resources finding out. We’re not experts in that field. I’ll let the experts give their input when he goes to this counseling.”

Gary Garcia, a Tampa businessman, said he called Spurrier on Thursday morning to see if he would be at the Masters. After watching the first round and visiting with friends at the course, the Garcias drove to Columbia with another son, Brian, to spend time with Stephen.

Gary Garcia said he hopes to meet with university officials today about the terms of his son’s suspension.

“We planned to come up and see practice and watch the spring game. But it’s not appropriate for us to be there at this stage,” Gary Garcia said. “We stay in touch with parents, stay in touch with coaches (and) support the team.”

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.