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Carolina Suspends TE Saunders

The subject of an NCAA investigation, tight end Wesley Saunders has been “temporarily suspended” by South Carolina’s Steve Spurrier.  But don’t jump to conclusions.  Spurrier said the suspension has “nothing to do with the NCAA” investigation.

Saunders has been practicing with the team throughout fall camp and the coach has said that USC would prepare as though their starting tight end would be with them against Southern Miss… up until the NCAA said otherwise.

But Saunders was absent from practice yesterday and the reason given was an undisclosed violation of team rules.  Spurrier said “his situation will be determined a little later.”

The tight end has upset Spurrier before.  Last year, Spurrier wasn’t happy with statements Saunders made leading up to the Gamecocks season-opener with NC State.  In January, he was suspended a week for missing several meetings and workout sessions.  This summer, he became part of the NCAA’s crackdown on illegal player-agent contact.  And while NCAA investigators looked into his possible dealings with agents, his (and other players’) residence at a Columbia hotel became yet another controversy.

So did the suspension have anything to do with the Whitney Hotel?  “I said team rules,” Spurrier said.  “Whitney don’t have nothing to do with our team.”  Joe Person of The State reports that Spurrier “grew weary” of questions about Saunders yesterday, which is pretty evident from the above answer.

“Y’all don’t listen to me.  Weslye has (been) suspended for a violation of team rules.  His status will be determined at a later date.  Now how else can I say that?  OK?  That’s all I’ve got to say about it.”

A source tells The State that Saunders missed a team meeting on Saturday morning and was late for that day’s practice.

Two sources have told Travis Haney of The Charleston Post & Courier that Saunders got into trouble for lying about his whereabouts on Saturday.

According to The Post & Courier: “Later, when coaches asked Saunders why he was tardy, Saunders told them it was because he was talking with NCAA officials.  A quick check with the school’s compliance office showed that Saunders wasn’t telling the truth.”

Observations:

* A couple of weeks ago, Spurrier said that discipline on his team had improved going into Year Six.  He said that in the past he’d had a hard time getting players to show up on time for team funcions.  Perhaps the fact that Saunders — a talented player who has yet to live up to his hype — remains on the team despite numerous issues explains part of the problem in Columbia.  This isn’t Saunders’ first time missing or being late for team functions.  Yet he remains on Spurrier’s squad.

* It’s interesting that quarterback Stephen Garcia has been publicly criticized by Spurrier all offseason… while Spurrier has gone into very few details regarding Saunders’ multiple suspensions, the NCAA investigation surrounding him, or his living arrangements at the Whitney Hotel.  In fact, he bristled yesterday when asked for more information.  It would seem that Garcia’s recent issues lie with decision-making in the pocket and off-field study habits.  Saunders has broken team rules, (apparently) lied to coaches, and drawn NCAA scrutiny.  I would think Saunders would have been the coach’s whipping boy in the press, not the guy who threw 10 picks in 432 attempts last season.

* Coaches don’t like being lied to.  Lying to a coach is akin to saying the magic word to basketball official.  It often leads to ejection.  Example: Zach Mettenberger — it is believed by those in Athens — would have survived his misdemeanor sexual battery charges had he not lied to Mark Richt when the coach asked him what happened on the night he was arrested.  If it’s true that Saunders lied to his coaches and survived, that’s an interesting precedent to set.

 


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