COLUMBIA -- With the start of South Carolina's preseason football camp just two days away, multiple sources say embattled fifth-year quarterback Stephen Garcia is expected to be fully and officially reinstated to the team today.
The 23-year-old has spent the summer months partially reinstated, in a probationary period, following his suspension in April for an outburst at an SEC-mandated life skills seminar.
Head coach Steve Spurrier, athletic director Eric Hyman and USC president Harris Pastides have collaborated this year on decisions involving Garcia. After a few episode- free months, they're expected to allow him back on the team in time for camp. The season begins Sept. 3 for the defending SEC East champs.
Last week, Spurrier was as upbeat about Garcia as he has ever been.
"Stephen Garcia has changed his lifestyle, almost completely," Spurrier said Thursday. "He's been on time, no goofing around. He's being very serious. He's showing a commitment we've never seen before."
Suspended in April, just before the spring game, Garcia received his degree in sociology in May. He was partially reinstated in early June, just as voluntary summer workouts were beginning at USC.
Like when he was suspended for having alcohol on campus in 2008, Garcia has been subject to a list of university-issued requirements. Among them this time, sources have said Garcia was asked to complete an outpatient alcohol treatment plan, considering several of his offenses -- including the April outburst -- involved alcohol abuse. The doctors administering that program had to sign off on its completion before Garcia could be reinstated, the sources said.
Spurrier indicated last week that everything was on track for Garcia's reinstatement. That official word, from Hyman's desk, should come today.
"I expect him to be a different person," Spurrier said. "We think Stephen is on track to perform well and grow as a first-class person. That's where he is."
Spurrier later said Garcia could have an "outstanding" year if he remains focused. With 6,753 passing yards, the Tampa, Fla., native is currently the school's third-leading passer -- 3,200 yards behind Todd Ellis for first.
Garcia will have help. USC features one of the best running backs (Marcus Lattimore) and receivers (Alshon Jeffery) in the country.
Spurrier said last week that there will be a competition for the starting job, between Garcia and sophomore Connor Shaw, "just like we said we were." But he indicated Garcia has the upper hand, because of physical strength and experience.
"He's just had a few issues where he's done stupid things that have gotten him into trouble," Spurrier said. "If we can eliminate those things, you know, he's fine. He's already graduated. He's smart. He's just had some bad moments of, 'Well, why'd you do that?' Hopefully we'll get rid of those moments."
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