The Tragedy of Stephen Garcia

UPDATE, 03-26, 12:58 a.m.: The door is still open for Garcia to return, according to The State.

"I want to do what's best for Stephen at this point. I certainly cannot argue with this penalty. He's had plenty of chances. There's no argument on our side," Spurrier said. "If he can fulfill all these obligations ... and come back in August, we'll take him back then."

Spurrier said Garcia wants to return. ...

"His attitude now is that he's going to accept a very strong penalty and hopes to return next fall," Spurrier said. "So we'll just have to wait and see if that occurs."


END UPDATE

---

When bad news strikes, C&F's first response is to resort to humor. Part of that is a personal defense mechanism -- jokes have always made the missiles life sends our way seem to sting a little less.

Part of it is also therapy. If C&F can make South Carolina fans laugh about something troubling or traumatic -- or at least attempt to do so -- it's a worthy service.

There's nothing funny, though, about this.

It's the same tragic plot that college football fans have grown too accustomed to. The same one that Gamecocks fans can recall all too easily. Two words: Derek Watson.

Here we have an incredibly talented athlete, a quarterback with so much potential that no less an offensive guru than Steve Spurrier was willing to incorporate a few new wrinkles into his offense to take advantage of those skills.

In the end, it's all gone. With Watson, it was a penchant for getting into all sorts of trouble. With Garcia, it's the siren song of alcohol.

Surely Garcia isn't alone. Surely the attention shined on him is unique because of his position. Should that spark a dialogue about alcohol use on campus? That opportunity has been missed more often than not, and there's no reason to believe this case will be any different.

So we are left with the case of one young man who seems to be moving too fast to keep up with himself. And one wonders if he'll ever realize what he's doing to himself without a stronger wake-up call than this:

Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said Monday night that Garcia's "fate is in the hands of the University of South Carolina," adding he would keep Garcia on the team if the university allowed him to remain in school.

"If the university allows him to be here, we'll give him another shot," Spurrier said.


The fourth shot, for those of you who are keeping track.


And that, men, isth how you discthipline a football team.


C&F can understand the likely sentiment behind Spurrier's comments, and he thinks it's probably more than just winning and losing. Consider Garcia's life without football, and ask yourself the key question: Without a motive to get his life under control, is there any reason to believe Garcia won't run completely off the rails?

In the end, as much as we might like to moralize about whether the university is being tough enough on these young men, it's more about what's best for them. Is there any reason to believe Garcia would be better off if he were at home in Tampa with little more to look forward to than a lifeline from a desperate JUCO coach or a minimum-wage job? And in the annals of college football, is his wrongdoing really that egregious?

But there is this need for discipline. If someone can blow off chance after chance, what message does that send both to our student-athletes and the children who admire them? And what makes us think that Garcia will ever get it right? Would keeping him on the team just delay by four years the inevitable crash?

It's best for Garcia and USC to part. That's not something C&F says lightly, but three strikes are three strikes, and there's nothing that should make us believe the fourth time will be a charm. Undoubtedly, Garcia will repeat the apology he's become so good at, trying to once again reclaim the chance for greatness he seems intent on rejecting. But to accept that would be to give him one opportunity too many.

The shame of it all isn't that Garcia got so many chances. And it isn't that he ran out of those chances before he got to take a snap in a live game.

The shame is that he needed those chances in the first place. And that, with them gone, it's hard to see where his fall will end.

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