Spurrier: Garcia has a 'chance of being back'

Stephen Garcia was suspended for the fifth time during his college career on April 6th after drinking before an SEC-mandated event.

FORT MILL -- As a part of his first Gamecock Club "Fan Fest" address, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier offered some pointed words about suspended quarterback Stephen Garcia.

"Stephen Garcia's got a chance of being back," Spurrier said to fans gathered at Knights Stadium. "We'll see how the summer plays out and see if he can mature a little bit and quit acting immature-ish and childish and things like that.

"Maybe we'll allow him to come back and join a bunch of guys who know how to act responsibly and represent the University of South Carolina. So, we'll see if Stephen can do that or not."

The crowd of several hundred then erupted into applause.

Garcia was suspended April 6 by athletic director Eric Hyman after Garcia admitted drinking before an SEC-mandated life skills event. It was the fifth suspension of his turbulent career, though all the incidents since his first semester have not involved arrests.

After graduating Saturday morning, the fifth-year senior met with Spurrier about his future. Spurrier said that the meeting went "OK" and didn't elaborate beyond that.

Some well-placed sources have said Garcia could be reinstated before summer workouts begin in June. Most expect him to return for his final season, though Spurrier began speaking Wednesday about sophomore Connor Shaw before he mentioned Garcia's name.

"Connor Shaw had a good spring," he said. "He's very capable."

Technically -- and Spurrier has mentioned this -- Garcia could transfer to any school in the country. But unless he is dismissed, he has repeatedly expressed to The Post and Courier that he wants to return to play for the Gamecocks.

Just up the road from his home in Rock Hill, USC signee Jadeveon Clowney stopped by the fan fest for a few minutes. As Spurrier signed footballs at a booth, fans gathered around the 6-6 specimen of a high school prospect.

Last week, Spurrier mentioned that Clowney "hadn't quite qualified yet." Sources have said Clowney still has plenty of time to make the grades and scores he needs. He is expected to enroll in July.

Spurrier brought with him, too, Rock Hill products Stephon Gilmore and DeVonte Holloman. The pair of defensive standouts took a few questions from fans. Spurrier made mention of the strong leadership on the 2011 team, Gilmore and Holloman included.

Spurrier didn't hide from the fact that USC will be favored to again win the SEC East, in many pundits' eyes. But he cautioned fans, saying the Gamecocks "weren't dominant" in a 9-5 2010 season. He pointed out the team was ranked seventh in the SEC in total offense and defense.

The person who introduced Spurrier accidentally said the Gamecocks won the SEC in 2010. Spurrier, true to his straight-shooter style, began his address by correcting him.

"We only won the East, but it was better than most years, as we know," Spurrier said. "We made some progress this past year, but we didn't reach to where we hope to get, hopefully, in the next two or three years."

Coming up

The Fan Fest was the first of six stops around the state this month. The next event will be Monday at Riley Park, from 5:30-8 p.m. Spurrier and basketball coach Darrin Horn, along with other coaches, will speak around 6:30 p.m.