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Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014

Garcia saga symptom of bigger problem

Thursday, October 13, 2011

By now, news of Stephen Garcia's departure from the University of South Carolina has spread far and wide.

Garcia was dismissed from the team after failing a substance abuse test for alcohol, which was part of the terms agreed upon by Garcia and team officials after being reinstated to the team for a fifth time.

The bigger point here is why in the world would someone need five chances before being given the ax?

Sure, one mistake is understandable. Everyone has hiccups, especially in college.

But five career suspensions before finally being dismissed ?

The whole episode with Garcia's five suspensions and ultimately a dismissal is part of the problem with collegiate and professional sports these days.

The message from the administration and trustees is clear, "Athletes are above the law."

If Garcia had been a member of a non-revenue sport for the University of South Carolina, say the tennis team, or track and field team, he'd have been gone in a heartbeat.

But because Garcia has skill, and is part of a huge money influx for the school, higher ups turn a blind eye.

Why are these kids given more and more chances? Have they forgotten they are on an athletic scholarship?

Playing football for a major Division 1 NCAA program isn't a right, regardless of anyone's skill level.

It's a privilege.

So instead of giving these kids second, third, fourth and fifth chances, why not immediately hold them to a higher standard from the get go?

Student athletes, whether they like it or not, are automatically held to a higher standard. In addition to balancing school work and growing up like everyone else in college, they have to throw in the fact they're competing at one of the highest and most physically demanding levels in the world.

But why are actions off the field not held to a higher standard too?

Granted, this is pointing out one situation, because several athletic NCAA teams participate in beneficial events like Habitat for Humanity and other organizations' community benefits.

Coaches are paid to do one thing--win football games.

Should coaches try and put the best team possible on the field? Absolutely.

Should they compromise core values any decent human being can adhere to in order to find that best team? Absolutely not.

Is it possible for an athlete to hold himself or herself to a higher standard? Look at Tim Tebow. He is arguably a beacon of light in today's collegiate athletes.

He didn't drink in college, party or violate any team rules. It is actually possible for an athlete to make it through college and hold himself to rules and make it as a decent member of society.

This age of allowing athletes to live life above the law has to end, or else the very sports we love will corrode away into thuggery until there is nothing left of what sport was intended to be.

Chris Siers is the sports editor for the Times-Gazette. Email him at sports@t-g.com.

Chris Siers
The Extra Point
Chris Siers is sports editor of the Times-Gazette.