DARLINGTON | Suspended quarterback Stephen Garcia likely will rejoin the USC football team next week, but it won't guarantee that he's back for good.
Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said Wednesday that USC’s starting signal-caller the past two seasons probably will participate in summer workouts while he continues to work to meet goals to win full reinstatement. The workouts start Wednesday.
Garcia would be evaluated again before joining the team for fall practice, which begins Aug. 3, Spurrier said before a USC Fan Fest at Darlington Raceway.
“If he follows the guidelines that the athletic director, president and our team doctor put in front of him, certainly I think he’ll have a chance to come back,” the coach said.
Asked why the team doctor was working with the fifth-year senior, Spurrier said only: “He’s got some issues.”
Garcia has been on indefinite suspension the past two months for his behavior at an SEC violence-prevention seminar. He has been suspended five times since joining the Gamecocks, including for charges of drunkenness and vandalism, as well as reportedly for having a girl in his hotel room before this year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl.
The school has not disclosed the conditions Garcia must meet to play his final season. Garcia has attended counseling sessions with Dr. Timothy Malone, the athletics department’s director of wellness, a source with knowledge of the situation told The State last month.
Efforts to reach athletics director Eric Hyman and Garcia’s father, Gary, on Wednesday were unsuccessful. Hyman said earlier this month that Garcia was progressing toward reinstatement but still had “checkpoints” to meet.
Spurrier said this week that the Tampa-area native was meeting the requirements needed to rejoin the team. Allowing Garcia to participate in summer workouts after missing the spring game because of his suspension appears to be a reward for the quarterback’s progress.
Many USC fans have clamored for Garcia’s return as the football team looks to defend its East Division crown and win its first SEC title in what will be the squad’s 20th season in the conference. News that Garcia might return drew applause from the crowd gathered at Darlington Raceway to hear Spurrier talk Wednesday.
Still, even if Garcia is reinstated, Spurrier said he will have to battle backup Connor Shaw to regain his starting job.
“Stephen has a lot of little minor problems. I don’t know the exact reasons,” the coach told reporters. “Hopefully he can become a first-class student-athlete and be the best player he can be.”