Surely you've heard by now: Stephen Garcia, the oft suspended quarterback of the South Carolina Gamecocks is now dismissed from the team. Not benched for Connor Shaw. Not suspended indefinitely. He's gone. Packed up and probably back in Tampa with his family by now following the official decision that came a day ago. No way to "earn" his spot back on the roster. No way to get back out on the ballfield with graduation or good behavior. The fifth-year senior has exhausted all of those avenues.
He's just gone.
This time it was not just a simple "violation of team rules" through an embarrassing arrest or a run-in with the athletic director's wife at a life skills meeting. This time the quarterback is out the door following a violation of the zero-tolerance policy. A zero-tolerance policy that he and the school made a stipulation of his return to the team. A violation that turns out to be of the "substance abuse" variety has forced the hand of not just Steve Spurrier, but more importantly, athletic director Eric Hyman.
Yes, it coincides conveniently with Connor Shaw looking quite solid against Kentucky and the Old Ball Coach coming out to bar Ron Morris, one of his more ardent critics, from press conferences. Yes, it all seems oddly coincidental. I'm no conspiracy theory guy, and quite frankly, whether it was a calculated plan or not is of no consequence, because the fact remains Garcia is out the door in Columbia.
Not a happy day for your's truly. While other folks have taken Stephen Garcia to task plenty of times for both his on the-field-play and his off-the-field antics, I've been a guy that has been a fan of the kid since his recruitment and enrollment at South Carolina. Kid was a ball player in high school. He played ball like a football player first and a quarterback second. There was always a sense of reckless abandon and casual disregard with which he approached the game.
As a guy who values being able to run full speed and slam into people, seeing those same qualities in the quarterback out of Tampa drew me to the kid. I'm not going to juke when I can run through a guy. Screw it, I'll throw it deep because I think my guy is better. Sorry I threw that pick, gimme the ball back so I can make more plays.
He played the game like a defensive back who wanted to knock people out and take a few gambles on interceptions. I respect the hell out of that. Garcia certainly wasn't the best, but I enjoyed the hell out of the kid, flaws and all.
Of course, not everyone does. Folks want the big arm and technically sound qualities of Tyler Wilson. Folks want the "elite NFL prospect" tag of Andrew Luck. Folks are in love with the "he's a winner" element of Kellen Moore. Those guys are some of the best out there.
All understandable, because for all of Garcia's talent he was, at times, just as likely to run or throw you out of football game as he was to lead the Gamecocks to victory. Up and down. Roller coaster. Wildly Inconsistent. It all fits, and being a fan of the kid, those were things I was willing to take on. I know going into it that the two costly interceptions against Auburn in 2011 are just as much a real possibility as the three touchdowns against Alabama in 2010.
Then we get to the off-the field-transgressions. If you've followed along you know he was one of my favorite players entering this season even given his off the field situation. All of the "bro" jokes aside, he was a guy that I could identify with. Not just because of all the on-the-field qualities listed, but because he was a guy that seemed to enjoy the hell out of being in college.
That's not an excuse or dismissal of him getting into trouble; he got caught and he paid the consequences. Yes, the car keying and fire extinguisher/alarm incidents were juvenile, but I don't share much of the outrage or disdain so many other media personnel or fans have.
Perhaps it is because I was, and likely still am, somewhat of a ragamuffin myself. My teammates and I partied pretty hard. We fought a little bit, especially each other. We broke some stuff. We, and this might surprise you, drank underage. We drank before events we probably should not have drank before. We went out on nights we weren't supposed to be out in Chapel Hill.
Were we "bad kids" back then? I don't particularly think so.
Maybe this is a revelation to some people: Being gifted athletically doesn't accelerate the maturity process. Throwing a ball 50 yards doesn't make 18 into 33. Running a 4.3 forty doesn't transform 21 into 45.
That being said, should Stephen have learned his lesson after the first couple of run-ins? Absolutely. Did he? Clearly he did not. Everyone matures at a different rate, and it seems Garcia, at 23, has not quite gotten there, even with the aid of previous run-ins and disciplinary actions.
Yes, it is disappointing, but it also is what it is. Disappointing for his teammates who have really supported him, even now as he is leaving. Disappointing for his family as his dad again responds to the criticism. Disappointing for a guy like me who has enjoyed Garcia. All we can hope is that he lands on his feet, and whether that means taken a shot at the NFL or leaving football behind, I wish the kid the best; being a 20-something adult child is not the easiest thing in the world.
As for the Gamecocks we'll see how Connor Shaw holds up. The team is his now, and while that is all well and good against Kentucky, we'll see how things hold up with Tennessee, Arkansas, Florida and Clemson still on the schedule. These are atmospheres Garcia's handled before; it will be interesting to watch how the newly crowned sophomore handles himself.
There are plenty of "what might have beens" in regards to Stephen Garcia. What if he didn't party so much? What if he had better luck with the authorities? What if he'd decided to play his last season elsewhere? What if he learned to throw the ball away? Those all come to mind. In the end, he was a blazing meteor on and off the field with a recklessness that eventually burned up in the Eric Hyman atmosphere.
But that folks is what I liked about Stephen Garcia. Now the kid is gone. Sucks, Bro.
Hell yeah. All good having fun but when it came to football I was one squared away Jock strap. If he really loved playing he'd of known when to say when. We all grow up wanting to play DI ball but some don't get all the physical gifts but we got the heart. Garcia had the gifts but I think his heart was more in the keg than on the field. Sucks watching these guys with talent waste it. God I still want to play even at my age, I smell the grass and chill of fall and all I want to do is throw the pigskin around and earhole somebody.....God I miss my youth!
@Soonerfan33 I'd never questions the kid's heart after some of the ways he's laid his body on the line. Decision making? That's where he was lacking and yeah, it happens.