Stephen Garcia won’t get a sixth chance to play quarterback for No. 15 South Carolina.
Garcia, who had been suspended and brought back to the team five previous times, was dismissed Tuesday for failing an alcohol test, a person familiar with the decision said. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because South Carolina had not announced specifically why Garcia had been kicked off the team.
The person told the AP Garcia had agreed to undergo periodic tests for the presence of any alcohol as a condition of his reinstatement.
Athletic director Eric Hyman would only say that Garcia was released after the fifth-year senior failed to meet agreed-upon guidelines.
”Being a student-athlete at the University of South Carolina is a privilege, not a right and we remind all of our student-athletes that there are consequences for their actions,” Hyman said in a statement.
Garcia told The AP in a text message Tuesday that he was ”shocked and completely flabbergasted to be honest” by the dismissal. He said he would have a full statement later in the week.
The quarterback was suspended from all team activities in April for unacceptable conduct at a life-skills seminar. He was conditionally approved to workout with teammates in May, then reinstated fully last August just before football camp began.
Hyman and coach Steve Spurrier said then Garcia had to live up to several regulations to keep his spot in the program.
”Unfortunately,” Hyman continued, Garcia ”has not been able to abide by those guidelines and therefore forfeited his position on the roster.”
Garcia started 34 games, including four this season, for the Gamecocks since arriving on campus in January 2007. He was demoted to second string behind sophomore Connor Shaw on Oct. 3 by Spurrier for inconsistent play and did not take part in a 54-3 blowout of Kentucky last Saturday.
Spurrier was asked earlier Tuesday if Garcia would be Shaw’s backup when the Gamecocks travel to Mississippi State on Saturday.
”We’ll see how all that works out this week,” Spurrier said.
About an hour later, Garcia was gone.
The dismissal ends a turbulent tenure for the once-promising quarterback, who helped the Gamecocks to the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division and was expected to do it again this season.
He threw for 3,059 yards and 20 TDs a year ago as the Gamecock played in their first SEC title game.
Garcia’s final season, though, got off to a rough start. He was suspended for a week of spring ball for violating team rules during the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta. Garcia promised then it would be the last time he found trouble at South Carolina.
But less than two weeks later, he was suspended a fifth time and Spurrier suggested publicly that Garcia might choose to graduate – he earned his sociology degree in May – and transfer to another school for his final season.
Garcia, though, pledged to stick it out and Spurrier praised his dedication and improved attitude. Garcia shaved his beard and cut his hair to Spurrier’s liking and appeared ready to deliver on South Carolina’s high expectations.
When Garcia met with the media in August he said he did not undergo formal counseling sessions since his spring suspension, only a few discussions with team doctors. When asked if he had a problem with alcohol, Garcia answered ”Negative, no.”
Even after Spurrier selected Shaw to start South Carolina’s opener with East Carolina, Garcia stayed sharp and came off the bench to rally the Gamecocks to a 56-37 victory.
Garcia’s numbers, however, did not match those he put up a season ago. His completion percentage fell from more than 64 in 2010 to less than 52 this fall. He had nine interceptions and just four touchdown passes when Spurrier sat him following South Carolina’s only loss, 16-13 to Auburn on Oct. 1.
Garcia stood on the sidelines during the Kentucky game, cheering on Shaw and two other reserve quarterbacks – Andrew Clifford and Dylan Thompson – who played against the Wildcats. Spurrier had said Garcia had an elbow issue after the Auburn loss.
Shaw threw for 311 yards and four touchdowns. He was named the SEC’s offensive player of the week for his performance.
Spurrier said he was sad that Garcia’s career ended this way.
”We all feel like we’ve given Stephen numerous opportunities to be a student-athlete here at South Carolina. Obviously, he has chosen not to follow the guidelines of his reinstatement contract,” Spurrier said in a statement. ”We wish him the best.”