SAPAKOFF COLUMN: Spurrier, South Carolina Gamecocks football program can move on after NCAA accepts self-imposed penalties
So almost two years of perilous posturing later, the main thing that happened during an NCAA investigation into the South Carolina Gamecocks football program is that Columbia's Whitney Hotel got a lot of calls from bargain-hunting tourists.
“You guys still have that $14.59 rate on the two-bedroom suite?”
Otherwise, it's a great day at South Carolina.
The NCAA announced Friday it accepts USC's self-imposed sanctions — primarily a loss of six scholarships over three years — with no additional penalties, and praised the school for stellar cooperation. This means head coach Steve Spurrier and everyone in the football office can turn the page without worrying about dark shadows or wooing walk-ons.
The worst-case scenario was a laundry list of penalties, including the vacating of South Carolina's first and precious SEC East title secured over a hard-fought 2010 season that hatched amid breaking news about The Investigation.
This was a “best cases” scenario.
“This has been one of the best cases from a process standpoint,” said Britton Banowsky, chair of the NCAA infractions Committee and commissioner of Conference USA.
Simply, the South Carolina people told the truth.
The NCAA hates it when you lie to its investigators. Lying wastes their time. Keeps them from looking into other SEC schools.
Now all of the focus on the South Carolina football program will be about Spurrier's jabs at his quarterbacks, the Thursday night opener at Vanderbilt, SEC Media Days, Marcus Lattimore's knee, the restructured defense, recruiting and more Spurrier jabs at quarterbacks.
Ah, Gamecock football like it oughta be.
Athletic director Eric Hyman is on a roll.
His shrewd analysis and precise action of the NCAA mess confined the separate hotel and foundation flaps to just slightly ugly. You have to think the over-under on football scholarship reductions Hyman and Co. originally self-imposed at six had to be at least 8.5.
He scored big with the hiring of basketball coach Frank Martin.
The baseball program is pretty good, too.
Kudos for USC president Harris Pastides for nailing this as a “teachable moment.” Three years of probation and an official NCAA reprimand are serious things, particularly within the viciously competitive world of SEC football recruiting.
These, after all, are “major” violations. Any time an NCAA report includes words like “prominent booster” and “supplementary support,” it's dicey.
The paragraph about “Student-Athlete 1” getting the sweet $14.59 suite deal at the Whitney for “approximately” 459 days reads like Colbert Report shtick.
For a while, a little slipup here or there gets magnified from high school hallways of South Carolina to Paul Finebaum's radio studio in Birmingham.
Gilmore and Ingram
A coincidence that Spurrier had his first run-in with the NCAA law just as South Carolina was rising to SEC-elite status?
Outside garnet-colored households, the answer is “no.”
Inside the friendly confines, Gamecock Nation emotion managers better be careful.
But today could have been the start of one of the worst weekends in recent South Carolina football history, full damage control.
Instead, it's one of the best.
Cornerback Stephon Gilmore, a model student and a skilled cornerback, was the 10th overall pick in the NFL draft, bound for Buffalo.
Star obstructionist Melvin Ingram, a tribute to post-adversity work ethic, was the 18th overall pick, the toast of San Diego.
Surely, Spurrier's staff will make Thursday night's first round must-see taped TV for recruits. With no need for a severe sanction disclaimer.
Reach Gene Sapakoff at 937-5593 or on Twitter @sapakoff.