South Carolina leaders to meet with NCAA

It’s South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier’s time in the NCAA crosshairs on Friday.

Spurrier and 10 other university coaches, leaders and officials will be in Los Angeles this weekend to appear before the NCAA Committee on Infractions. The NCAA says the school received $55,000 in improper benefits for athletes – mostly football players – who stayed at a hotel for a reduced rate and for South Carolina’s involvement with a mentoring group in Delaware.

South Carolina agreed in its response to the NCAA in December that major rules violations did take place.

”Sometimes crap happens,” Spurrier said bluntly earlier this month. ”You just have to deal with it.”

Spurrier was not named in the NCAA’s list of allegations. This will be his first time before the NCAA panel since 1990 when he was Florida’s new coach and the program dealt with infractions that occurred before Spurrier’s arrival.

Spurrier said the hearing would help ”find out who was at fault or if anybody was at fault, that’s what we’re trying to search for.”

The bulk of improper benefits come from 12 athletes staying at the Whitney Hotel at $450 each for a two-bedroom suite.

The NCAA found the hotel a few miles off campus charged a rate of $14.95 per athlete for two-bedroom suites. The NCAA said the rate should’ve been more than $57 per night for each athlete. One football player who spent more than year at the hotel, the NCAA said, received an extra benefit worth $19,280.

The NCAA said the school received $47,000 worth of improper benefits from the rate reduction.

South Carolina’s former compliance director Jennifer Stiles had said the hotel rate was comparable to other available off-campus housing. The NCAA called her assessment ”flawed” in correspondence from 2010 and said the school should’ve compared with rates given others who stayed at the Whitney long term.

”Had this good faith error in judgment not occurred, the university believes the violations in allegation one would have been minimized,” South Carolina said in its NCAA response.

The NCAA also alleged that South Carolina received $8,000 in improper benefits from the Student Athlete Mentoring Foundation.

SAMF president Steve Gordon and treasurer Kevin Lahn were found to have paid for several unofficial visits by Gamecocks freshman receiver Damiere Byrd. Both Gordon and Lahn are South Carolina graduates.

Byrd was suspended for South Carolina’s first four games and made to pay back $2,700.

Lahn also paid for a $3,350 dinner cruise on nearby Lake Murray for several prospects that was also attended by track coach Curtis Frye and 16 members of his program.

Gordon has said he and his organization did not steer athletes to South Carolina or any schools. Florida defensive end Sharrif Floyd, who was also involved with Gordon’s group, was suspended for two games and made to pay back $2,700.

The university acknowledged SAMF made more visits to South Carolina than other schools and those trips helped in recruiting Byrd.

The school said it will reduce football scholarships by one in 2012-13, by three in 2013-14 and by two in 2014-15. The football team will reduce its official visits from 56 to 30 in 2012-2013.

South Carolina said it would pay a fine of $18,500 for four athletes who played in 2009 and 2010 while ineligible because of these violations.

The university has disassociated itself from three boosters, SAMF officials Gordon and Lahn, and Whitney general manager Jamie Blevins.

Neither president Pastides nor Hyman, South Carolina’s AD, would discuss the hearing. ”I just don’t think it’s appropriate,” Hyman said.

Also attending the hearing are South Carolina track coach Curtis Frye, quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus and men’s basketball assistant Boynton, who were alleged by the NCAA to have connections to SAMF leaders.

Stiles will be there as will her new boss, recently named compliance director Chris Rogers, who was hired after helping Ohio State through its recent NCAA troubles in football.

The school doesn’t expect an NCAA decision for about two-to-three months.