Garcia guarantees he'll avoid more trouble

jkendall@thestate.comMarch 24, 2011 

South Carolina Gamecocks quarterback Stephen Garcia (5) practiced but did not play during the spring scrimmage at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday.

TRACY GLANTZ — Tracy Glantz/tglantz@thestate.co

South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia spoke Thursday about his most recent transgression, promising it also will be his last.

“I have to be smarter; that is the bottom line,” the Gamecocks’ senior quarterback said. “The last time I got in trouble (before this) was three or four years ago. It was a bad decision on my part down in Atlanta. Nothing bad is going to happen again. That is a guarantee.”

Garcia was suspended for the first week of spring practice for a violation of team rules that occurred during South Carolina’s trip to Atlanta in December for the Chick-fil-A Bowl. Garcia and third-string quarterback Andrew Clifford, who also was suspended, had girls in their room during a routine bed check the night before the game, a source told The State, but Garcia declined to discuss the event.

“I don’t really want to get into that,” he said. “It’s kind of an in-house deal. We handled it. It was three months ago. It is distracting talking about it still.”

Garcia didn’t know he was going to be punished for the incident until last week, the day before South Carolina began spring practice, he said. Coach Steve Spurrier told Garcia and Clifford on Monday of last week that he was considering a punishment, and then left a voice mail on Garcia’s cellphone the next morning telling him he would be sitting out a week of practice, Garcia said.

“I kind of had to let it sink in, and I couldn’t really talk to him or call him back at that time, just because I was so distraught,” Garcia said. “I talked to him about it later that night.”

He acknowledged being surprised by the delayed punishment.

“I thought (it was over), but it’s Coach’s team, and I’m playing on his team,” he said. “It is what it is. I accepted the fact that I got suspended and have to move on.”

Garcia had three interceptions in South Carolina’s 26-17 loss to Florida State in the bowl game, but he said the incident that led to his suspension had nothing to do with his bowl game performance.

Garcia, who is third in South Carolina history in passing yards (6,753) and passing touchdowns (43), has been suspended for all or part of three of his five spring practices in Columbia. He understands, he said, why some of the team’s fan base is frustrated by his behavior.

“It has been kind of a bumpy five years since I’ve been here,” he said. “Every single thing that I have done has been my fault. I can’t blame anybody else.”

In order to avoid more trouble, he plans to “eat, sleep, drink and think about football and nothing else but football,” for his 10 remaining months with the team, he said.

“I talked to Coach Spurrier a few times about (the suspension), and that was the main thing that he wanted to put in my mind, that it is a privilege to be on the team, and it definitely has sunk in,” Garcia said.

Garcia described his relationship with Spurrier as “a lot better” and said his coach gave him a list of nearly a dozen suggestions for what he needed to do to remain in Spurrier’s good graces. The only item on the list Garcia would reveal was to get a haircut, which he has done.

“I took them to heart,” he said.

Garcia’s teammates were supportive of him during his suspension, he said.

“That’s why I love this team,” he said. “I got 100,000 phone calls from everybody on this team saying, ‘Don’t worry about it. Just get ready. We’ll be ready for you next week.’ It’s a family here, and I am very happy to be here.”

Garcia returned to practice Tuesday. Quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus has encouraged Garcia to move on and is hoping everyone else will, too.

“He has paid his debt to society or whatever you want to call it,” Mangus said. “It is time to play football and get better. That’s all I am concerned about.”

Mangus also reiterated what Spurrier has said several times since the end 2010 — the quarterback job is up for grabs.

“The day you start letting somebody get comfortable is the day they take a step backward,” Mangus said. “We are going to keep it open and see what happens. Obviously, he has the most reps and the most experience, and you would think that they would lend toward him having the best shot at it, but Connor (Shaw) is a good player and he’s going to get better every rep.”

Stephen Garcia after practice Thursday

Steve Spurrier after practice Thursday

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