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Garcia staying out of trouble

Stephen Garcia during the 2007 media day at Williams-Brice Stadium.
Stephen Garcia during the 2007 media day at Williams-Brice Stadium. The State

Stephen Garcia has a new haircut, a summer job and designs on returning to South Carolina this summer.

The USC quarterback, banished to Florida following three arrests during his first 15 months on campus, has complied with several university-imposed stipulations, according to Garcia’s father, his lawyer and a university source.

After the 20-year-old Garcia was cited for underage drinking and admitted discharging a fire extinguisher during a five-hour span at the East Quad dormitory on March 22, he was kicked out of campus housing and prohibited from attending summer school at USC.

In addition, university officials required Garcia to adhere to several conditions in order to return to USC on Aug. 15, the first day students can move into dorms before the start of the fall semester.

Garcia, a redshirt freshman who has yet to take a snap for the Gamecocks, was required to submit to weekly drug and alcohol tests, undergo counseling and find full-time employment, according to the university source.

The source said Garcia has passed the first eight of 10 scheduled drug and alcohol checks, completed his counseling program and is working near his family’s home in Lutz, a suburb of Tampa.

Attempts to reach Garcia on Thursday were unsuccessful.

His father, Gary Garcia, said in an e-mail the family is “laying low (and) letting Stephen do what he has to do to be compliant” with the stipulations.

“He really wants to come back and help his teammates and it’s very difficult not being up there this summer,” Gary Garcia wrote. “He will let his actions do the talking for now.”

Neal Lourie, Garcia’s attorney, said Garcia was fulfilling his requirements and “headed in the right direction.”

“He’s not a bad person. He’s a good kid that just happened to make some small mistakes like every other college kid makes,” Lourie said. “But he’s doing everything the university’s asked him to do. He wants to be back here, and I expect him to be back here playing in the fall.”

Garcia is suspended from football-related activities until Aug. 15, two weeks after the Gamecocks report for preseason drills and 13 days before their season opener against N.C. State.

There has been speculation Garcia could be allowed to rejoin the team earlier if he completes the requirements. But USC athletics director Eric Hyman has given no indication he would lift Garcia’s suspension before Aug. 15.

“You know what the plan is,” Hyman told reporters this week. “You’ll have to go back to the university and the guidelines that he’s been asked to follow.”

Garcia, the highest-rated quarterback to sign with USC since Steve Spurrier arrived before the 2005 season, hoped to compete for the starting spot in the spring. But Garcia was suspended for spring drills for the second consecutive year after campus police cited him and two other players for underage drinking and ticketed Garcia’s older brother for supplying beer to minors.

Garcia moved into a condominium near the Gamecocks’ practice field, where he lived with his mother, Debbie, while finishing the spring semester. Garcia also cut off his trademark ponytail.

If the 6-foot-2, 221-pound Garcia rejoins the team, he will begin the fall behind Tommy Beecher and Chris Smelley on the depth chart. Spurrier tabbed Beecher his No. 1 quarterback after a spring game that featured erratic quarterback play and a combined eight interceptions by Smelley (five) and Beecher (three).

Beecher has not started a game since his senior year at Concord (N.C.) High in 2004, while Smelley was 4-2 as a starter last season before Blake Mitchell reclaimed the No. 1 spot.

Reach Person at (803) 771-8496.

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