March 29, 2008

Hyman: Three Factors Led To Garcia Verdict

In Eric Hyman's view, the Stephen Garcia case was handled no differently than any other disciplinary matter involving a South Carolina athlete that has come before him in his three years as athletic director.

There was just one thing different about Garcia's case: the facts.

Three days after Garcia was cited by campus police for underage drinking in his dorm, Hyman suspended the redshirt freshman quarterback Tuesday from all team activities until Aug. 15, less than two weeks before the 2008 season opener against N.C. State.

The suspension was announced in a terse two-sentence statement a couple of hours after he met with Garcia.

In addition, Garcia will be prohibited from attending summer school, and must submit to drug and alcohol tests and participate in an alcohol counseling program.

Hyman said he based his decision on the same three factors he considers in every case that potentially involves disciplinary action:

-- pattern of deviant behavior;
-- how the athlete dealt with authority in the particular situation;
-- how 'sincerely remorseful' the athlete is.

Citing confidentiality laws intended the privacy of student-athletes, Hyman declined to specify how Garcia graded out in each of those three areas.

"No two situations are the same. You base the decision on the facts you have," Hyman said in an interview Friday with Gamecock Central. "I try to take all of those factors into consideration when any situation is brought to my attention and when it crosses my desk and when I need to respond to it,"

"Every situation is different. I base the decision on the facts I have. That's how the process works here. I don't get into case specifics."

Hyman asserted he received input from the university's Student Affairs Office in determining the Aug. 15 date. Since the incident occurred in a dorm, Garcia was subjected to the same process as any other similarly situated student.

"He was treated like all students are treated when they go through the student affairs system," Hyman said. "He wasn't treated like an athlete. He was treated like a student."

Garcia was one of three football players (QB Zac Brindise and OL Heath Batchelor were the others) cited last Saturday evening for underage drinking in the East Quad dormitories. Garcia paid a fine of $257.50 in municipal court Monday morning.

"When we have issues like this, (the) athletics department looks at it, obviously, and then if it's an issue dealing with student affairs, the case goes through the student judicial system and they also respond to it," Hyman said.

A year ago, Garcia was charged with drunkenness and failure to stop for a police officer in Five Points. Less than a month later, he was charged with malicious injury to personal property when he keyed a professor's vehicle.

Garcia entered a pre-trial intervention program in order to dispose of those misdemeanor charges.

"Some student-athletes dig themselves a pretty deep hole," Hyman said. "I reach down and try to help them out of the hole. But I can't help them unless they reach up. I want to provide the support to help the athletes. They're making the adjustment from high school to the real world."

Garcia was suspended from last year's spring practice as a result of those earlier charges. Spurrier reinstated him to the team the day after the Garnet and Black game.

Garcia missed Monday night's workout while Hymn contemplated his future.

Hyman said that although he conducts seminars for athletes and constantly reminds them to be careful, there's only so much he can do.

"My focus is on the students," Hyman said. "I want our students to have a good experience here. This process is in place to help the young people. We have almost 500 sons and daughters here (who are USC athletes). I want to provide the support system to help them. I can lead them to the water, but I can't force them to drink."

Based on his checkered history while on the USC campus, some questioned whether Garcia will make it both athletically and academically. Hyman understands no one is perfect.

But there is a limit to his patience.

"In college, young people are going to make mistakes," Hyman said. "As I tell everyone, I have an eraser on every pencil and a delete button on all my computers. But the key is for the athletes to learn from their mistakes."

Spurrier remarked Tuesday that he would respect the decision of university officials, saying Garcia had received "plenty of chances."

The fact Garcia has been in trouble with authorities before appeared to play a major factor in Hyman's decision to levy a five-month suspension.

"I try to tell the athletes that if they have a pattern of doing these things, they're not going to be successful when they're here or when they leave the university," Hyman said. "The lessons athletes learn from college athletics are ones they can carry on for the rest of their lives, so they can be successful in whatever endeavor they participate."

According to Spurrier, Garcia has told him he plans to return to USC on Aug. 15, the first day of classes for the fall semester. But, for now, he must reside in off-campus housing and then return home to Tampa, Fla. for the summer while the rest of the USC players go through summer conditioning.

Spurrier said he'd welcome Garcia back into the football program of he chooses to return. However, it's also possible Garcia could depart USC without ever playing a down for the Gamecocks.

"I try to give the athletes a different perspective and a different outlook," Hyman said. "Sometimes I'm successful, sometimes I'm not."

When asked about Spurrier's decision to leave Garcia's fate to him and the university, Hyman contended that was the coach's 'judgment' call.

"All of our coaches approach these situations differently," Hyman said. "There's not a cookie-cutter way that coaches handle these situations. Coach Tanner may approach it one way, Coach Spurrier may approach it another. There's some latitude in what they can do.

"But when it crosses my desk there are certain guidelines you have to follow."

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