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Gamecocks hope sixth -- and final? -- shot for Garcia the charm

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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DESTIN, Fla. -- This is absolutely, unequivocally without a shadow of a doubt, Stephen Garcia's final chance. Forget about his previous five suspensions, the previous five do-overs. This time South Carolina is serious.

"I think one [more suspension] and he'll be finished," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said of his senior quarterback.

On Monday, the school announced Garcia would be allowed to participate in voluntary summer workouts. He had been on indefinite suspension -- the fifth time, if you're keeping score at home -- since April 6.

Here's a brief description of Garcia's five suspensions from GamecockCentral.com:

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February 2007: A month after Garcia enrolled early at USC, he was indefinitely suspended after being arrested in Five Points for drunkenness and failure to stop on police command. He was reinstated the day after his suspension was announced.

March 2007: Two weeks after his first arrest, Garcia was arrested again. This time for vandalizing a visiting professor's car -- "keying" the car -- and then was suspended from spring practice.

March 2008: Garcia was charged with underage drinking and, in a separate incident, was questioned about a fire extinguisher discharged in a dorm. It was announced Garcia's suspension would run through Aug. 15, but he was reinstated two weeks earlier on Aug. 1 -- in time for the start of fall practice.

March 2011: Garcia violated team rules in December, reportedly for having girls in his Atlanta hotel room after bed check during the week of the 2010 Chick-fil-A Bowl. He played in the game, but wasn't suspended until March for the first week of spring practice.

April 2011: Two weeks after Garcia guaranteed he wouldn't make any more mistakes, he was suspended indefinitely for violating team rules that were believed to have stemmed from his disruptive behavior and smelling of alcohol at an SEC-mandated leadership event.

So basically, Garcia has three, possibly four-alcohol related suspensions, has disobeyed a police officer, keyed a professor's car and partied like a rock star a few nights before throwing three interceptions in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

"He's a little different type individual," Spurrier said Wednesday at the SEC's spring meetings.

Garcia ranks third all-time in passing yards and TDs at South Carolina. (Getty Images)  
Garcia ranks third all-time in passing yards and TDs at South Carolina. (Getty Images)  
Garcia may not rejoin the team for fall practice without approval from South Carolina President Harris Pastides, athletic director Eric Hyman and Spurrier.

"The president, AD and I are hoping he can act the proper way," Spurrier said. "He has some guidelines he has to follow or he knows he's finished."

Garcia would have been finished at least three suspensions ago if Garcia were, oh say, a backup tight end or long snapper.

But he's not. Garcia is a quarterback. A very good one. Some would argue even the best in the SEC this season.

Garcia has started 28 consecutive games and is 17-13 as a starter. He's coming off the best season of his career, leading the Gamecocks to a 9-5 record and the school's first SEC Eastern Division title.

The Gamecocks are the clear favorites to win the SEC East this season. They're loaded with running back Marcus Lattimore, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and possibly Garcia back on offense. This is clearly the Head Ball Coach's best team since coming to Columbia in 2005.

And Spurrier knows Garcia, and not sophomore Connor Shaw, is the difference between a BCS bowl and a return to the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Garcia ranks third on the school's all-time passing list in yards and touchdowns, but is numero uno in all of college football in suspensions.

Does Garcia deserve yet another chance? That's for Pastides, Hyman and Spurrier to decide -- although if he's been reinstated for voluntary summer workouts, it's pretty likely he'll be reporting to camp on Aug. 2.

"From what I understand he's doing all the things the president and AD and I have asked him to do," Spurrier said. "He's working out with the team. He has two months to continue doing that."

Spurrier was asked if the message had gotten through -- you know, the one that the previous suspensions didn't -- to Garcia.

"It's too early," Spurrier said candidly.

Spurrier said Garcia's teammates support him and most want to have him back.

"I believe he's worthy of another chance," Spurrier said. "He has made a life-change commitment. If he stays on that commitment it would definitely be worth it to give him another opportunity. He has changed a lot about his life. He's a changed person right now. Hopefully he'll stay that way."

He better. If not, Garcia's career at South Carolina will be over. And this time, South Carolina really, really, really, really, really means it.

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