Posted by Jerry Hinnen
The NCAA apparently doesn't think much of the Student Athlete Mentoring Foundation.
A day after the Florida defensive lineman Sharrif Floyd was suspended two games for his involvement with the Delaware-based S.A.M. (a decision which drew down as much furious wrath from Will Muschamp as it's possible to get in a single prepared statement), South Carolina freshman wide receiver Damiere Byrd was suspended four games for his association with the same organization.
Byrd sat out the Gamecocks' win over East Carolina because of S.A.M.-related concerns over his eligibilty and will also miss Carolina's games against Georgia, Navy and Vanderbilt. He will return for the Gamecocks' Oct. 1 home game against Auburn.
Like Floyd, Byrd will have to make a $2,700 repayment of "recruiting inducements and impermissible benefits" to charity before the NCAA will restore his eligibility. Unlike Floyd, however (who the NCAA found to have not received his benefits from a Florida booster), some of Byrd's were reportedly offered by a Gamecock booster. According to a statement by the NCAA, those booster's benefits "included lodging, transportation and meals during multiple unofficial visits to the University of South Carolina. It also included several parties at the booster’s home and gift cards."
S.A.M. president Steve Gordon told Columbia newspaper The State that while Byrd took Foundation-sponsored trips, Byrd's family -- including father Adrian Byrd, the S.A.M vice-president -- paid for them rather the Foundation itself.
Carolina athletic director Eric Hyman called Byrd an "outstanding individual" who "had no idea that being part of the Student Athlete Mentoring Foundation would in any way affect his college eligibility." Hyman suggested the program might appeal on Byrd's behalf, but that Byrd would remain ineligible while the appeal was heard.
A consensus four-star recruit from Sicklerville, N.J., Byrd made waves throughout fall camp and was in line to join the Gamecocks' receiving rotation (though a starting job in the veteran unit remained unlikely). A redshirt following the suspension is possible.