Spurrier: Garcia is out, Gamecocks have to move on
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier hoped Garcia's time as Gamecocks quarterback would end with a championship celebration instead of the way it did after the fifth-year senior's dismissal.
On Wednesday, Spurrier told his players it's time to move ahead.
''Coach Spurrier said what it was,'' reserve quarterback Seth Strickland said. '''Stephen's gone and it's time to move on.'''
Garcia was dismissed from South Carolina on Tuesday after failing an alcohol test, a person familiar with the decision told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because South Carolina has not specified the reason for Garcia's departure.
Spurrier learned Garcia would be kicked off the Gamecocks on Monday night and he spoke with his former quarterback the next day.
''I don't like it. I don't like it,'' Spurrier said Wednesday. ''I wish he had stayed. I wish he could have finished his career as a Gamecock one way or another.''
Sophomore Connor Shaw will make his second consecutive start for South Carolina (5-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) at Mississippi State (3-3, 0-3) on Saturday.
Spurrier benched Garcia after a miserable performance in a 16-13 loss to Auburn, which entered as the SEC's worst defense. Shaw threw for 311 yards and four touchdowns - as many as Garcia had in five games - in last Saturday's 54-3 victory over Kentucky.
Still, Spurrier encouraged Garcia to stay sharp and focused when the spoke on Monday since he was ''one injury away'' from returning as starter, the coach said.
Then came Monday night's decision from athletic director Eric Hyman that Garcia had to go. The 23-year-old from Lutz, Fla., had been suspended five times previously and was given a list of guidelines he had to follow to maintain his place on the team.
Strickland, also the Gamecocks' holder on placekicks, spent a year as Garcia's roommate and wished him well when the two talked this week.
''He's moving on. He's supporting us and we're still going to support him,'' Strickland said. ''Hopefully, it's best for both parties. We're going in different directions but hopefully we'll make the best out of this and Stephen will make the most of his opportunities down the road.''
Garcia had a 20-14 record as South Carolina's starter since 2008 and helped the team to its first SEC championship game appearance last spring.
Backup quarterback Andrew Clifford has also spoken with Garcia.
''He's taken it pretty hard, but I think he's taking responsibility for his actions,'' said Clifford, who threw a touchdown pass late in the win over Kentucky.
Spurrier told the team it was time to rally around Shaw, a coach's son who led Flowery Branch (Ga.) High to the state semifinals his senior season. ''I guess the new word is, `We got your back. Hang in there. We'll block for you and give you the best chance to be successful,''' Spurrier said.
Spurrier said Shaw doesn't have to perfect, he just needs to grow into the position and let playmakers like receiver Alshon Jeffery and SEC rushing leader Marcus Lattimore do their jobs.
Spurrier would not reveal what he said to Garcia in their conversation Tuesday, only that he wished him luck in the future. Spurrier also addressed criticism that he was not as supportive as he could've been to his longtime starting quarterback.
''I have read that some of these people around here didn't think I praised him enough, but I try to praise all our players according to how they perform and their commitment level and so forth,'' Spurrier said. ''It's unfortunate what happened to Stephen, and it's all over now. We don't need to rehash it.''