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University of South Carolina athletics director Eric Hyman responded on Thursday to internet reports linking his wife, Pauline Hyman, to the recent suspension of starting quarterback Stephen Garcia.

In an email sent to a local radio network, Eric Hyman sought to downplay any connection between his wife and the Southeastern Conference Mentors for Violence Prevention (MVP) event that led to Garcia’s indefinite suspension on April 6. However, the athletics director’s statement failed to address several key questions about his wife’s alleged involvement in the fiasco.

Before we get into any of that, here is Hyman’s statement in defense of his wife (the USC athletic department’s unofficial “Miss Manners”):

1) The MVP is an SEC mandated program. The program has trained adult instructors. The program is for student athletes only, no adults from the host schools are allowed in the program (coaches, administrators, etc) that is given to the student athletes.

2) Pauline volunteers her time and teaches in USC’s Lifeskills program. The programs are totally separate…USC sponsors the Lifeskills and the SEC sponsors the MVP. Until all of the rumors about her “involvement”, she had never heard of the SEC MVP program.

3) With that said, Pauline had a very serious back operation in January. As of today, she is still in a brace that that limits her mobility. At the time of the program, if she was involved in the program, she could not have taught it because she could not even stand up for 5 minutes much less teach a class.

In addition to these comments from Hyman, it’s also worth pointing out that USC spokesman Steve Fink has previously gone on the record saying that Pauline Hyman is not the one who alerted her husband to Garcia’s behavior – a statement that we included in our initial report on this soap opera.

Now … what do we make of Eric Hyman’s latest statement?

First, it’s interesting to see the lengths he’s going to in an effort to prove that his wife did not attend this event. Last time we checked, no one was accusing her of that.

On the contrary, what’s been alleged is that Pauline Hyman was informed of Garcia’s behavior, told her husband about it and demanded that the quarterback be suspended as a result of it. Obviously, Eric Hyman addressed none of those allegations in his statement.

Furthermore, if no USC coaches or administrators were at the event – as Eric Hyman suggests – how did he find out about Garcia’s alleged behavior?

Also, who was the speaker at the event (the individual who allegedly berated Garcia)? And who did that person contact regarding Garcia’s alleged behavior? And if it wasn’t Pauline Hyman, who did notify the USC athletics director about the incident?

Finally, did Eric Hyman speak to Garcia and give him a chance to tell his side of the story before suspending him?

All of these are important questions … and let’s be honest, all of them should have been answered a month ago when the school announced that it was suspending Garcia.

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

USC head coach Steve Spurrier has said the quarterback’s status is a “university decision,” but it’s clear that Spurrier – along with a majority of Garcia’s teammates – wants him back.

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 most recent incident, the jury is still out …

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 to provide an 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 captured its first-ever SEC East championship. And 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.

What do you think about this soap opera? Vote in our poll and post your thoughts in our comments section below …