When Florida announced just before kickoff Saturday that defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd had been declared ineligible by the NCAA, their assurance that Floyd's "issue" was "not related to sports agents, University of Florida boosters or his recruitment to Florida" suggested that he might return to the lineup sooner rather than later. That suggestion has been proven correct.
The NCAA announced Thursday that Floyd will have his eligiblity reinstated following a two-game suspension and the repayment of $2,700 in benefits to charity. Assuming Floyd makes the payment, he will miss this week's game against UAB but be eligible to return for Florida's Week 3 SEC opener against Tennessee.*
According to the NCAA statement, Floyd was declared ineligible by Florida "for violations of NCAA preferential treatment rules, including receiving $2,500 cash over several months from an individual not associated with the university."
That individual has been reported to be a man named Steve Gordon, president of an organization titled the Student Athlete Mentoring Foundation. Involvement with Gordon and his organization has led to eligiblity issues for both Floyd and South Carolina freshman receiver Damiere Byrd. " "We don’t steer players (to specific schools), and the proof is in the pudding," Gordon told Columbia (S.C.) newspaper The State. "All I know is they are punishing Damiere and Sharrif for something they didn’t do."
To some extent, the NCAA seemed to agree, reducing Floyd's suspension from four games to two for "mitigating circumstances." Their statement explains:
In its decision, the reinstatement staff cited the totality of Floyd’s circumstances, including his personal hardship that led to the impermissible benefits being provided to the student-athlete by someone other than a legal guardian or family member.Even that doesn't sound like it was enough for Florida. Gator AD Jeremy Foley released a statement stating that the Gators were "comfortable" with Floyd's eligiblity status, " yet the NCAA staff interpreted that there were violations."
He described Floyd's upbringing as "an environment where he didn’t have the things most of us take for granted ... In the absence of parents, there were kind people, in no way affiliated with the University of Florida, who were not boosters or sports agents, that helped him along the way."
While Byrd was unlikely to become a major contributor so soon for the Gamecocks, Floyd had reportedly been a terror in Gator practices throughout the offseason and was set to start at either tackle or end. He was named a CBSSports.com preseason All-SEC selection and should give Will Muschamp one more weapon on what already shapes up as one of the SEC's best defensive line.
So if Muschamp walks with just a little more pep in his step today, we won't blame him.
*On CBS, we just think you should know.