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August 1, 2011
Long expected but still in the air throughout the summer, the decision was finally formalized on Monday.
Stephen Garcia is fully reinstated to South Carolina's football team, two sources close to the team confirmed to GamecockCentral.com on Monday.
The State first reported the story and quoted coach Steve Spurrier as confirmation.
Calls and messages to USC sports information were not immediately returned.
Suspended but reinstated on a probationary stance since May 30 so he could attend non-mandatory summer workouts with the rest of the Gamecocks, Garcia was given his official clearance on Monday. USC begins preseason practice on Wednesday, with all players expected to report to campus on Tuesday.
While Spurrier has said and repeated that the battle for the starting quarterback position will be open between Garcia and top backup Connor Shaw, Garcia's reinstatement gives the Gamecocks a huge boost toward living up to their prediction - a repeat champion of the SEC East. The fifth-year senior completed 64.2 percent of his passes last year for 3,059 yards and 20 touchdowns, also throwing 14 interceptions but rushing for six more scores.
All he has to do is keep living up to the guidelines set for him by athletic department brass and himself. Compliments for Garcia have been rampant since he returned to campus in May, Spurrier and other team sources complimenting him on his leadership qualities and his changing of old habits.
"Stephen Garcia has changed his lifestyle almost completely," Spurrier said at his media golf outing last week. "He's been on time, no goofing around, real serious. He's shown a commitment that we've never seen before."
While specific conditions of all of his guidelines have never been fully defined, two of them were for Garcia to cut his hair and to finish his degree, which he met. Garcia obtained his sociology degree after the last spring semester and had already shorn the neck-length locks he sported throughout 2010.
Another item is believed to be staying away from alcohol, which has been a factor in four of the five times Garcia has been in trouble. While Spurrier faced some criticism for allowing even the chance of Garcia returning for a sixth time - especially when Garcia returned to spring practice in 2011 after a week-long suspension, guaranteeing his trouble-making days were over, before being belligerent and disruptive at a seminar - the seventh-year coach said he didn't want to turn his back on a player who needed help.
"I guess we don't want to kick him out for stupidity," Spurrier said at SEC Media Days. "And there's some reasons that he's probably done some things.
"We just felt like he was worth giving another opportunity to sort of change his lifestyle, and he's done it."
Teammates have rallied to support him, recognizing Garcia's on-field demeanor. "Everybody makes mistakes," sophomore tailback Marcus Lattimore said at SEC Media Days. "He's going to be our quarterback this year."
Reports from the team over the summer have said that Garcia has been exemplary in attending summer workouts, attacking the weight room and encouraging younger players to never miss any session. He has also organized 7-on-7 drills to work on his throws, getting in extra field work before official practice begins.
Garcia will have some company on the field as well. Quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus, who works one-on-one with Garcia and his backups, has also been reinstated to the team. Mangus had been indefinitely suspended since an arrest for nuisance conduct last week in Greenville.
It was reported last week that Mangus would be suspended through the first week of preseason camp, but the word apparently came down that Mangus could re-join the team for Wednesday's initial practice. GamecockCentral.com was able to confirm that Mangus was expected to be at practice in a full role on Wednesday.
Chris Clark contributed to this report
- Fitzgerald: Garcia had 'great summer'
- Johnson on Clowney: 'We have a war daddy coming'
- Shaw seeks to unseat Garcia
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