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South Carolina Gamecocks: NCAA's Next Scandal?


-by Braden Gall (@BradenGall on twitter)

Published Sept. 20, 2011

The nationwide NCAA violations tour has added a new date in Columbia, South Carolina: The South Carolina Gamecocks.

USC, North Carolina, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Oregon, Miami and now the South Carolina Gamecocks have caught the ire of the NCAA infractions committee after two years of potential violations.

Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks received the official NCAA notice of allegations Monday afternoon regarding its college football, basketball and track/field programs.

The NCAA claims that at least 12 student-athletes (10 football and two track) received just under $47,000 in benefits from the local Whitney hotel. The impermissible reduced rent supposedly included special provision for nine players to pay back the money at a later date. Two football players are reported to have paid the dramatically reduced rate ($14.59 versus $57) for over 400 days. The report indicates that the 10 football players spent a total of 1,717 days/nights at the hotel.

The Whitney Hotel’s general manager, Jamie Blevins, is a South Carolina booster.

The NCAA notice also claims that representatives of the University of South Carolina had illegal contact with potential recruits, including extra benefits. Delaware-based Student Athlete Management Foundation (SAM) – run by two South Carolina grads President Steve Gordon and treasurer Kevin Lahn – is reported to have provided $8,000 worth of benefits to prospective student-athletes. The disobedience is reported to have taken place between the spring of 2009 and February of 2011. These benefits include a boat cruise for nearly 50 football players, entertainment costs, meals, lodging and unofficial trips to campus.

Sharrif Floyd of Florida and Carolina’s Damiere Byrd have both already been served suspenions and repaid monies stemming from relationships with SAM.

It might be a total coincidence that these “impermissible” benefits took place during a period of extraordinary Gamecock recruiting. If you simply extrapolate and speculate, this period of time would heavily involve the two recruiting cycles in which the South Carolina Gamecocks signed the No. 1 player in the nation in the 2011 class, Jadeveon Clowney, and the No. 5 player in the nation from the 2010 class – and current NCAA rushing leader – Marcus Lattimore.

"We have and will continue to cooperate fully with the NCAA in all aspects of their review," said South Carolina athletics director Eric Hyman said in his official statement. "Any pertinent information from the NCAA that can help us strengthen our athletics program will be used as an opportunity to make positive change."

Both issues are considered “potential major violations,” and South Carolina has 90 days to respond to the NCAA notice of allegations before eventually appearing before the infractions committee.

It may only be just the beginning and it may not be as bad as it sounds, but with the way college football has been soaked in scandal for the last 18-24 months, it’s has to be tough for Gamecock fans not to be nervous.