The Old Ball Coach And His Favorite Mistake
[play accompanying music for maximum impact]
“University of South Carolina senior quarterback Stephen Garcia has been dismissed from the football team, it was announced today.”
The official release announcing the departure of college football’s most colorful quarterback does not do him justice, hence the feelings collage above. After Garcia’s fifth suspension and subsequent reinstatement, and just days after his umpteenth benching, it appears as though this dismissal might actually take.
South Carolina is certainly not alone in facing upheaval at quarterback this season. Of the 12 programs that make up college football’s most dominant conference of the past five years, only two (Arkansas and Georgia) have cruised through the summer and early fall of 2011 without suspension, benching, or other forms of controversy at the position.
But Garcia … oh, Garcia is special. At my previous outlet, we’d been following his career with interest since this angelic mugshot turned up in 2007. That fluffy hair! Those spectacularly ill-advised scrambles! The velvet blazer, the sword collection, the archery lessons! The fact that he had two brothers play for Harvard and landed in Columbia, South Carolina. The relationship with his head coach that could fuel a weekday telenovela. The public excoriations for being, reduced to his simplest form, a college athlete fond of beer. The readily expressed sentiment that yeah, maybe five suspensions were enough, but he just loved his teammates and they loved him, man.
Hating the guy is nigh unto impossible, and at this point, futile. Spencer Hall had it nailed down as early as April:
We would remind Carolina fans that Garcia is at worst the second or third best quarterback in the history of your program, took a flyer on your program at a time when other teams were very interested in having him start for them, and has done very little in the way of anything actually nasty or felonious. Dude likes beer, sweet, life-giving beer. At this point it’s Stabler-esque in the charming way, not in the multiple DUI manner.
And what of Garcia’s legacy? Over to Garnet & Black Attack:
For me Garcia was captivating for the myth he became. He was quintessentially Gamecock. His boundless potential always seemed to be stalled by some imperceptible impediment. His highs were Everestian, but his lows were Marianastian. He was alternatingly bold and humbled. He was heroic, and he was tragic.
The Gamecocks are 5-1, tied for first place in the SEC East and poised to become the final obstacle on either LSU’s or Alabama’s way to New Orleans. But they’ll be a paler outfit going forward, and we’re robbed well in advance of the garish, irresistible specter of Steve Spurrier claiming a conference title on the strength of a guy whose greatest sin, really, is identical to that of every other Gamecocks and Gators quarterback since 1997: not being Danny Wuerffel.