It Means Something To Wear "CAROLINA" Across Your Chest

GAINESVILLE FL - NOVEMBER 13: Stephen Garcia #5 of the South Carolina Gamecocks during a game against the Florida Gators at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on November 13 2010 in Gainesville Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

Like many of you, I grew up attending football games at Williams-Brice Stadium and dreaming of running out of the tunnel to 2001 to 80,000+ screaming fans.  I wanted nothing more than to wear the garnet and black.  My father had played college football and I was a young high school student busy taking in the praise of my potential to do the same when my career ended as a result of spinal stenosis, a congenital cervical spine issue (See Sterling Sharpe, Michael Irvin, etc.).  There isn't a single time I enter that stadium for that grand entrance that I don't hurt.  I wish it were different, but it's not.  Fortunately, I was able to earn a baseball scholarship to another Division I school before coming back home to Carolina.  I recognize how fortunate I am to have done the latter, but, for me, it doesn't equal the former and never will.   

My point of relaying the above is not to tell you about myself, but to display, for just one guy, what putting on a Gamecock football uniform means.  I'm certain there are countless men, young and old, that get a similar feeling when the smoke begins to rise in the corner of the stadium.  Yet, for all of our lost dreams, false hope, fascination, and so on, a young man with the talent and ability to play and excel for our beloved team has spent five years seemingly doing everything he can to not only hover below expectations, but to not even be a part of it. 

18-22 year old men that are expected to become agressive headhunters on Saturdays typically aren't going to be angels.  They may run into some trouble in their four or five years as a college student-athlete, but to be suspended five times in a five year span is ridiculous.  It's even more ridiculous that it's happened to a player who plays a position that requires the greatest responsibility and demands leadership.  On March 24, following the surfacing of the alleged/true/clouded bowl week transgression, Stephen Garcia told the world he was done with trouble.  On April 6, he's suspended again - for the fifth time.  He's 23 years old.  What more can he do to remove himself from the program?  How little respect does he have for South Carolina, his teammates and the school's fans to have placed himself in the situations he's been caught in, and the others that have gone unnoticed by authority? 

Perhaps Garcia has an alcohol problem.  I'm very sorry if that's the case, and I certainly hope he receives help if he needs it.  If it were my decision as to his playing status, however, it would be with a heavy heart that I removed him from the football team at South Carolina.  One can only err so many times before he loses the right to be a part of something others are willing to give so much for and take pride in.  Has Garcia done some good things at Carolina?  Sure, but regardless of what he does this year if allowed to stay, he'll mostly be remembered for his ongoing issues while in Columbia.  It's sad, really.

For me, Stephen Garcia has lost the right to wear the garnet and black and hear the roar of Williams-Brice.  For me, he doesn't deserve to have "CAROLINA" embroidered across his chest.  I wish Gamecock media was abuzz with praise for all of the hard work he was putting in to get ready for his final season, but that's not the case.  Only one person's to blame - Stephen Garcia.       

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