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Thirteen months after the NCAA alerted the University of South Carolina to the fact that its football program was under investigation, a notice of allegations finally landed on the desk of USC President Harris Pastides on Monday.

It’s not good news for Gamecock fans, either.

Not only have a dozen student-athletes (including 10 Gamecock football players) been accused of receiving dramatically reduced lease rates at a downtown Columbia, S.C. hotel, but the USC program has been slapped with the dreaded “failure to monitor” allegation – indicating that the school failed to promote an “atmosphere for compliance.”

“Failure to monitor” is a major violation – and wide latitude is available to NCAA officials regarding the punishment that can be meted out as a result of it. And while “failure to monitor” isn’t as serious as a program having a “lack of institutional control,” just six years ago South Carolina admitted to ten NCAA violations (including five major violations) that occurred during the tenure of former head coach Lou Holtz.

That means that the Gamecocks can be punished as “repeat offenders” this time around – which means stiffer penalties.

In addition to the hotel allegations – which the NCAA says amounted to $47,000 worth of improper benefits – a pair of boosters working with a mentoring group allegedly doled out $8,000 worth of improper benefits to two football recruits. One of those players, wide receiver Damiere Byrd, has been suspended by the NCAA for the first four games of the 2011 season and been required to pay back $2,700 in benefits.

“The University will review the notice and respond accordingly,” President Pastides said in a statement. “I assure you that we will continue to take all aspects of this investigation very seriously. We are prepared to continue to work with the NCAA to resolve any issues.”

“We have and will continue to cooperate fully with the NCAA in all aspects of their review,” USC athletics director Eric Hyman added. “Any pertinent information from the NCAA that can help us strengthen our athletics program will be used as an opportunity to make positive change.”

South Carolina has until December 14 to respond to the charges. School officials will also likely have to testify before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions next February.

South Carolina won its first-ever SEC East title last year in head coach Steve Spurrier’s sixth year in Columbia, S.C. The Gamecocks have started the 2011 season with a 3-0 mark – and are currently ranked No. 12 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 10 in the USA Today/ Coaches’ poll.

NCAA NOTICE OF ALLEGATIONS

Pic: Travis Bell, Sideline Carolina

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