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Carolina Falls On Sword, Self-Imposes Penalties In Response To NCAA

Remember the Whitney!

That will become the battle cry of South Carolina compliance officials following an NCAA investigation into the Gamecock athletic program.  In response to allegations that the school failed to monitor housing arrangements for its athletes — and as a result Columbia’s Whitney Hotel provided some $47,000 in extra benefits (via reduced rent) to 10 football players and two track team members — the school has self-imposed a reduction of six football scholarships over the course of the next three years.

The school also will dissociate itself from three boosters, including two from the Student Athlete Mentoring Foundation who provided extra benefits worth more than $8,000 to Gamecock athletes.

In its letter of response, USC basically admits that all of the “major and serious” violations it was charged with did occur.  The school also will pay a fine of $18,500 for four football player who played while ineligible in 2009.  In addition, the school’s former head of compliance has been demoted.

Despite falling on their swords, South Carolina officials will still have to appear before the NCAA’s committee on infractions.  That group includes president Harris Pastides, AD Eric Hyman, and head football coach Steve Spurrier.  The hearing is set for February in Los Angeles.

According to the school, the former compliance director — Jennifer Stiles — made a “good faith error in judgement” when she approved the athletes’ lease terms. 

Spurrier’s reputation has been a clean one over the years and the fact that others — especially the school’s compliance director — made errors around him shouldn’t do much to sully his name.  In this case, he is not charged with any wrongdoing by the NCAA, in fact.

But still, it’s his program.  And when you’re dealing with compliance officials, 100 athletes, assistant coaches, athletic department staff and various boosters, it’s always dangerous to make comments like these:

“Anyone can poke around our program.  We don’t have anything to hide.  Poke on everything — the hours we practice and train.  They can poke everything we do.  And our compliance people poke, too.”

That’s what Spurrier said when the Whitney story first broke last August.  And as we said at the time, “most schools find that when the NCAA comes around, somebody does indeed get poked.”  Now it’s happened to Spurrier and his on-the-upswing Carolina football program, too.

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