COLUMBIA — South Carolina's mischief-prone quarterback is in trouble with the law for the third time since he arrived on campus a little more than a year ago.
And, this time, coach Steve Spurrier says that redshirt freshman Stephen Garcia's future is beyond his control.
"His fate is out of my hands, we'll put it that way," Spurrier said Monday after the team's spring practice session. "Stephen Garcia's fate is in the hands of the University of South Carolina. He may be out here; he may not be out here. We'll just have to wait and see.
"We've got the president, the athletic director, the dean ... we've got a whole bunch of people over there. If they say he'll be here, he'll be here."
Garcia, 20, and two other Gamecocks, 20-year-old offensive guard Heath Batchelor and 19-year-old walk-on quarterback Zac Brindise, were ticketed early Saturday evening by USC police for underage possession of beer.
The incident occurred about 6:30 p.m. in an on-campus courtyard. An officer noted that the three players, and also Garcia's 25-year-old brother Gary, had beer and coolers between the East and West quads. The elder Garcia was cited for transferring alcohol to minors.
Batchelor explained himself to Spurrier, who said he "pardoned" the sophomore from Alabama. He practiced Monday.
"He told me he wasn't involved," Spurrier said. "He was falsely accused, and I believe him."
Spurrier said Brindise, the younger brother of former Florida quarterback Noah Brindise, will sit out a couple of days.
And then there's Garcia, the long-haired, strong-armed Tampa, Fla., native who's drawn a lot of attention for someone who hasn't yet played a single down.
Garcia, who paid his fine Monday, didn't attend practice Monday. The school said earlier in the day that Garcia would sit out because of missing too many English classes.
Garcia was expected to serve that suspension later during spring drills, Spurrier said Friday.
Pressed Monday night for his feelings about the matter, Spurrier either deferred to USC administrators or shrugged his shoulders.
"What do you want me to say? I was surprised or wasn't surprised?" Spurrier said. "I'll accept whatever they say. He's had a lot of chances here. We'll see what happens."
Entering the spring, Garcia was considered a candidate to take the quarterback job heading into fall camp. Chris Smelley and Tommy Beecher, who both played last year, took all the snaps Monday.
"I'm not worried about it," Spurrier said. "We've got Tommy Beecher and Chris Smelley, and we know they're always going to be here. They do everything we ask. They're wonderful kids. And they can throw the ball, they can play. We'll worry about Stephen if he comes back out here."
Garcia's encounters with USC police didn't end Saturday during the early-evening hours.
At 11:30 p.m., five hours after the underage possession ticket was issued, officers were dispatched to a residence hall at 1400 Blossom Street after a fire alarm was pulled and an extinguisher was removed from the wall.
Once there, the police report says Garcia approached an officer and said he "discharged the extinguisher after noticing sparks coming from his stove."
One fire engine responded to the call. Firemen and housing employees cleaned up debris from the extinguisher, which the report said sustained about $100 worth of damage.
The report said "one student discipline was issued," but a USC official said Monday that there might not be any official charges related to the incident.
Garcia was already on a short, short leash with Spurrier after a couple of arrests shortly after he arrived on campus in January 2007.
He was arrested in February for public drunkenness in the Five Points bar district. A couple of weeks later, he was charged with malicious injury to personal property for keying the car of a professor after they engaged in a dispute about a parking spot near the university library.
After those incidents, which were eventually expunged from Garcia's record, Spurrier suspended Garcia for spring ball. That move led to Garcia taking a redshirt in the fall.
Following the initial ordeal, Spurrier said he was hopeful that Garcia would make "an all-out effort" to get his off-field life in order. He later said that Garcia was down to his "final strike."
Garcia and his coaches had talked in the past month about Garcia's attempt to mature. The birth of his first child, Garcia said, factored greatly into that.
"Everything that happened to him was the first two weeks of when he got here," quarterbacks coach David Reaves said in February. "Ever since then, he's been a model student, a model athlete, and he's done a good job for us."
Extra points: Senior corner Carlos Thomas and walk-on safety Mike Newton returned Monday to practice after serving suspension for off-field problems. ... As expected, redshirt freshman Mark Barnes moved from receiver to safety. Chris Culliver had done the same Saturday. ... Center Garrett Anderson sat out practice with a back injury.
Reach Travis Haney at email@example.com and check out the new South Carolina blog at charleston.net/blogs/gamecocks.
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