After transferring from Clemson to USC, Josh Belk left the Gamecocks after a season. Provided

COLUMBIA — South Carolina responded Monday to assertions from former defensive lineman Josh Belk.

The former Clemson player quit the Gamecocks' team in February and said Sunday it was because USC’s coaches threatened to take his scholarship if he didn’t lift weights while dealing with a back injury.

“The University of South Carolina is committed to providing all of our student-athletes with high-quality, comprehensive health care from nationally recognized surgeons and athletic trainers,” USC said in a statement. “Additionally, as stated in the Gamecock Student-Athlete Promise, all athletically-related scholarships provided to incoming freshmen are four-year agreements and coaches cannot withdraw scholarships because of medical reasons. Due to federal HIPPA laws, the University cannot comment about medical treatments or issues with any specific student-athlete.”

Belk, a former five-star prospect from Lewisville High, signed with Clemson and went through spring practice, then transferred to USC. He said he wanted to be closer to home to help with a family situation.

The NCAA approved his waiver to play right away. But hampered by excess weight he admitted to putting on between time at the two schools, Belk suffered an ankle injury and only played in six games in 2018.

Belk’s departure was met with a statement from coach Will Muschamp that Belk had decided to give up the game. Nowhere was it mentioned that Belk had a back problem, which Belk claimed involved multiple fractures.

That, and demands for him to keep working out and what he said were threats to revoke his scholarship, is why he left USC, Belk said in a video posted Sunday to his Facebook page.

“After about a week or so, they called me, I was still doing my treatment and everything,” Belk said. “They called me and told me that I needed to meet with the head coach. So I went, I was like, ‘What’s up?’ I went over there, met with the head coach and everything. When that happened, they told me then, they were like, ‘Either you’re going to lift and stuff or we’re going to have to take your scholarship at the end of the semester.’ ”

If Belk had a medical condition that was forcing him from the game, he didn’t have to lose a scholarship. He would have been able to stay at USC, his education paid for, and not count toward the football team’s scholarship limit.

If his story is true, it would seem he would have the makings of a solid lawsuit against the coaching staff and/or USC, and since he was represented by a lawyer when he asked for his release from Clemson, he clearly knows a lawyer.

There has been no suit filed and Belk said nothing about planning to in his video.

It’s also up to the medical staff, not the head coach, to clear players for workouts, practices and games. Belk never mentioned Muschamp specifically but lumped all of his accusations onto the coaching staff.  

Follow David Cloninger on Twitter @DCPandC.

From Rock Hill, S.C., David Cloninger covers Gamecock sports. He will not rest until he owns every great film and song ever recorded.

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