As FITS reported exclusively last week, the University of South Carolina athletic department reinstated starting quarterback Stephen Garcia to the football team this week – albeit on a “probationary basis.”

The decision – announced Monday morning by head coach Steve Spurrier and athletics director Eric Hyman – comes two months after Hyman suspended Garcia indefinitely for his alleged conduct at a Southeastern Conference “life skills” seminar. Prior to that, Garcia was suspended for a week for shenanigans that occurred in Atlanta prior to the Chick-Fil-A bowl in December. News of Garcia’s exploits in Atlanta broke exclusively here on FITS.

“Stephen is returning to the team on a probationary basis and still has to do some things here for the next two or three months to prove himself worthy of being a student-athlete at South Carolina,” Spurrier said in a statement. “We will give him another chance and hopefully he can do the right things and represent the University in a first-class manner.”

Sources at the athletic department told FITS a week ago that a decision had been made to reinstate Garcia in advance of summer workouts.

Hyman said Garcia’s “probationary” status with the team will be reevaluated prior to the start of fall practice – and it sounds as though he’s putting the fifth-year senior from Lutz, Florida on a tight leash.

“With assistance from others, we have developed a list of measurable guidelines for Stephen to follow,” Hyman said. “I want to make it clear those guidelines, which will remain confidential, are designed to help him live a successful life and are not some trivial hoops for him to jump through in order to find a way to reinstate him. So the ball clearly rests in Stephen Garcia’s hands.”

Hyman and his wife, Pauline, have been at the heart of the Garcia soap opera all spring. While there are conflicting reports regarding what happened at the SEC “life skills” event that resulted in Garcia’s latest suspension, it is widely suspected that Pauline Hyman – wife of USC athletics director Eric Hyman – was involved with the event and was instrumental in convincing her husband to suspend the 6-foot-2, 230-pound quarterback.

Pauline Hyman – who runs the school’s “life skills” program – is considered to be the athletic department’s “Miss Manners,” which obviously makes her a capable foil to the hard-partying quarterback.

Eric Hyman has denied his wife’s involvement – although he and the school have failed to answer a host of questions regarding the event as well as Pauline Hyman’s alleged connection to it. As part of the suspension, the school also blocked Garcia from renewing his scholarship.

Garcia had his best season as a Gamecock in 2010. He threw for 3,059 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and had a 148.7 quarterback rating – teaming up with standout wide receiver Alshon Jeffery to provide an effective aerial complement to the bruising ground game of Marcus Lattimore. Garcia also rushed for 222 yards and six touchdowns.

With Garcia back in the lineup, USC will likely be favored to win the SEC Eastern Division again in 2011.