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Controversial fifth-year senior quarterback Stephen Garcia was suspended from the University of South Carolina football program at the request of  Pauline Hyman – wife of the school’s athletics director, Eric Hyman – a new article alleges.

The story – which appeared on the website Saturday Down South – echoes much of our previous reporting regarding Garcia’s ongoing soap opera. It also provides a wealth of new details related to the infamous “life skills seminar” that led to Garcia’s indefinite suspension from the team on April 6.

From the story:

The event was a “life skills” seminar which was part of the MVP (Mentors for Violence Prevention) program. Attendance at the event was made mandatory by the SEC for football players from each of the 12 SEC schools. Contrary to initial speculation, Stephen was not supposed to speak at the event, he just had to attend with the rest of his team. The athletes were split up into groups of about 30 and sent to their respective rooms where they would listen to speeches. The first speaker for Stephen’s group, whose identity is still unknown began his speech by asking the athletes who they would rather have as their leader, Tim Tebow or Stephen Garcia. Stephen was not the only athlete who had a problem with the question, and some snide remarks were made. Other teammates asked them to just let it go and stay quiet. As the nameless speaker proceeded to berate Stephen, bringing up all of his prior indiscretions, in front of the team that he has led for the past four years, Stephen began to disrupt the speaker in his own defense. After the questionable speech was concluded, Stephen was pulled aside by an unknown event administrator and privately asked to cease his protest. The disturbed quarterback once again began to defend himself to the administrator, who then claimed to smell alcohol on Stephen’s breath and asked him to leave the event, which Stephen gladly did. Being honest with his coach, Stephen unfortunately admitted that he had a few beers prior to the event during a celebration of a teammate’s birthday, which led to the widespread belief that Stephen was intoxicated when he arrived at the event.

(To read the “Saturday Down South” story – written by reporter Lauria Giarratano – in its entirety, click here).

Incidentally, FITS has received numerous tips regarding the identity of the “life skills” speaker. Stay tuned for more on that …

Meanwhile, here’s the story’s account of Pauline Hyman’s involvement in Garcia’s suspension …

Part of the reason that the details of the incident have been slow to surface is the driving force behind the continued suspension, Pauline Hyman. Pauline, a graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, and a devout Christian, is a “good on paper” kind of woman, basically the complete opposite of Stephen Garcia, and she seems to have had a longtime personal vendetta for the goofy hippy quarterback. It is still unclear whether Pauline was at the event or not, but regardless, she has told several media representatives in anger that it was her event, and her speaker, and that the disrespect shown to the speaker by Stephen Garcia was unacceptable. According to several sources, Pauline demanded that her husband, USC Athletic Director Eric Hyman, suspend the quarterback immediately following the event, with no investigation into the incident.

Allegations regarding Pauline Hyman’s involvement in Garcia’s suspension have been repeatedly denied by the USC athletics department. In fact, school spokesman Steve Fink told FITS last month that Pauline Hyman was not in attendance at the event and is not the one who alerted her husband to Garcia’s behavior.

Garcia –a 6-foot-2, 230 pound quarterback from Lutz, Florida – 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 in providing an effective aerial complement to the bruising ground game of Marcus Lattimore. Garcia also rushed for 222 yards and six touchdowns.

Thanks in large part to the heroics of these three offensive superstars, USC won nine games last year for only the third time in the history of the program and won its first-ever SEC East championship. Despite a pair of embarrassing losses to end the season, USC still recorded its first Top 25 finish in nearly a decade.

With Garcia in the lineup, USC will be the clear favorite to win the SEC East again in 2011. Without him? South Carolina could see its expectations tempered dramatically.

As it stands now, Garcia’s status is undetermined. As we reported exclusively last week, he attempted to renew his scholarship for the 2011 season two weeks ago but was allegedly rebuffed by University officials.

USC head coach Steve Spurrier has said the quarterback’s status is a “university decision,” but it’s clear that the sixth-year head coach – along with a majority of Garcia’s teammates – is rooting for quarterback to return.

FITS has been following the Garcia saga for weeks – dating back to our exclusive report exposing the quarterback’s hard-partying antics prior to the Gamecocks’ appearance in the Chick-Fil-A bowl in December. Those exploits earned Garcia a one-week suspension at the start of spring practice – which we believe was an appropriate punishment.

As for the indefinite suspension following this “life skills” incident, based on the version of events related in the Saturday Down South story – the punishment strikes us as excessive. Seriously … why force a student-athlete to attend an event at which he’s going to be publicly humiliated in front of his teammates?

Also, Pauline Hyman’s alleged involvement in these matters strikes us as troubling – and more than a little bit hypocritical. After all, if she’s such a sanctimonious enforcer of virtue within the USC program, then why did she tolerate her husband sweeping this sort of scandal under the rug two years ago?

The University of South Carolina needs to make a decision regarding Garcia’s status – immediately, if not sooner.

It owes that not only to Garcia, but more importantly to his teammates and to thousands of Gamecock fans who are enjoying success on the gridiron for the first time in years.

Pic: Travis Bell, Sideline Carolina