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South Carolina Responds to NCAA LOI, Self-Imposes Penalties

I apologize for being a bit late on this, but better late than never: South Carolina has responded to the NCAA inquiries by admitting to mitigated wrong-doing and self-imposing penalties. In effect, we're admitting that major violations occurred, but we're also saying that we didn't gain a competitive advantage because of them and that there are certain circumstances that make it reasonable to believe that no one knowingly broke the rules. The defense, in effect, amounts to the following:

--South Carolina should have done a better job of monitoring the players staying at the Whitney. The compliance director compared the rates they were paying to the rates of local hotels, but she didn't compare the rates to the Whitney's own regular rates. Wrongdoing admitted. However, South Carolina maintains that it wasn't compliance's responsibility to make sure the players were paying their rent; as you know, some players were way behind on payments. Moreover, a good-faith effort was made to confirm that the players were paying reasonable rents; USC has proven examples of non-athletes receiving similar benefits, for example. Thus, while we're admitting wrongdoing, we're saying it is reasonable wrongdoing.

--South Carolina doesn't believe it derived any benefits from the SAM Foundation, which it argues should not be considered a USC booster organization. We're arguing that while SAM provided impermissible benefits, it didn't do so in order to steer players to our school. The benefits it provided were given to students who ended up going to a variety of D1 schools. All players, whether recruited by South Carolina or not, were treated similarly. Thus, the Foundation's organizers' relationship to USC should be considered coincidental, not part of an attempt to impermissibly benefit recruiting.

--Jennifer Stiles has been demoted from her position as compliance director, and the SAM Foundation and the Whitney have been dissociated from the University.

We have also self-imposed the following penalties:

--We're giving up six scholarships over the next three years, one next year, three the next, and two the next. However, we're reserving the right to give up next year's one in one of the following years if we decide we need the scholarship in 2012, i.e., if we're oversigned.

--We've reduced the number of official visits.

--We've imposed a financial penalty.

--We've issued reprimands to G.A. Mangus and track coach Curtis Frye for their relationship to the SAM Foundation. Both are also going to have reduced recruit contact for a time.

--We're on probation for three years, i.e., the NCAA can set up camp and make sure we don't do anything stupid during that time period.

One last thing to note is that our compliance staff has gone from seven to nine full-time members.

The question now is whether or not the NCAA accepts these penalties. It could (1) force us to forfeit victories, likely from the 2009 season, when players like Weslye Saunders were playing while ineligible due to their Whitney involvement. 2010 and the SEC East Title should be safe, as we took care of this shortly before that season began. The NCAA could (2) up the scholarship reduction and / or impose a bowl ban.

My impression is that victory forfeiture is a slight possibility, as we did have ineligible players playing in 2009. It's not necessarily likely, but possible. I don't think we'll suffer a bowl ban or drastic scholarship reduction, which is typically reserved for the kind of thing you saw at Southern Cal, or some of the stuff that's come out of Auburn and Alabama over the years. That said, the NCAA can be unpredictable on these things, so you never know.