Coach: “I follow the rules as closely as I possibly can.”
South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said he hopes his football program is not in “serious trouble” in the wake of an NCAA notice of allegations sent to USC President Harris Pastides.
“I don’t think we’re going to be,” Spurrier said at his weekly Tuesday press conference. “You work these things out, you do what they say, and that’s what our university is doing. Hopefully things will work out and so forth.”
The letter alleges that USC student-athletes and prospective student-athletes, the majority of which were associated with the football program, received approximately $55,000 in impermissible benefits in the form of reduced rent rates and deferment plans at Columbia’s Whitney Hotel, as well as extra benefits and prohibited recruiting inducements through the Delaware-based Student Athlete Mentoring (SAM) Foundation, which has two USC graduates on its board of directors.
The university’s compliance office is charged with a failure to monitor in both instances. Spurrier said he was not embarrassed USC received a letter.
“I think some stuff can happen, and unfortunately it happened,” he said. “We’ll try to handle it the very best we can.”
Quarterbacks coach G.A. Mangus was mentioned in the notice, but Spurrier was adamant Mangus had done nothing wrong.
“Not that he’d broken any rules,” Spurrier said. “He had a prior relationship with the guys up there in the Philly, New Jersey area. So that’s why his name was mentioned.”
Spurrier was referring to Steve Gordon, the president of the SAM Foundation, and Kevin Lahn, the group’s treasurer. Both men are USC alumni and considered boosters. The university has disassociated itself with both Gordon and Lahn, in addition to Whitney Hotel general manager Jamie Blevins.
Spurrier was asked during the press conference if he himself knew Gordon and Lahn or if he was aware of Mangus’ prior relationship. He declined to comment, saying he had “said enough about what I need to say about the NCAA investigation,” but later told the State newspaper he was aware of Mangus’ ties to the two. Spurrier also said he had met Gordon once, when he brought a group of prospective student-athletes to the USC campus.
Gordon and Lahn brought members of their foundation to a team seven-on-seven football camp sponsored by USC in June of 2010.
Included in that group was current USC freshman wide receiver Damiere Byrd. Byrd, a Sicklerville, N.J., native, has served three games of a four-game suspension for receiving approximately $2,700 worth of impermissible benefits through his relationship with the SAM Foundation. His father, Adrian Byrd, is the group’s vice president.
Adrian Byrd was also listed as the director of the group’s South Jersey chapter on its website. However, the SAM Foundation’s site, samfoundations.net, was significantly overhauled by early Tuesday morning, removing any mention of Adrian Byrd, Lahn or any other officials. Gordon’s contact information is still listed on the site, but he is no longer identified as the group’s president.
When asked if the allegations bring a bad light to his reputation, Spurrier emphatically said no.
“Has my name been mentioned as doing anything wrong? My name’s not on that sheet,” Spurrier said. “I follow the rules as closely as I possibly can. And if I ever break one, I turn myself in.”
Spurrier said he has committed one violation during his time at South Carolina — an accidental secondary violation that occurred during the recruitment of current senior offensive tackle Kyle Nunn — and he immediately turned himself in to the NCAA.
Then-recruiting coordinator David Reaves and Spurrier went to visit Nunn when Nunn was still in high school, Spurrier said. Knowing he was not allowed to talk to a prospective student-athlete if he was participating in an interscholastic athletic event that day, Spurrier asked Nunn if he played basketball, to which Nunn responded that he did and he had a game that night.
“I said, ‘We can’t talk to you today,’” Spurrier recalled. “So we got up and left, went back and turned myself in. That’s the one violation that’s on my record here.”
The NCAA’s Committee on Infractions has requested Spurrier attend USC’s formal hearing, along with Frye, Mangus, Pastides, Athletics Director Eric Hyman, faculty athletics representative Zach Kelehear, assistant men’s basketball coach Mike Boynton and director of compliance Jennifer Styles. The expected date of the hearing is Feb. 17-18 in Los Angeles.
Spurrier said he is not upset about having to attend the hearing despite not being mentioned in the notice, as he understands “these kind of things can happen.”
USC has until Dec. 14 to prepare the response it will present at the hearing. After the hearing, the committee aims to announce a penalty in 6-8 weeks, but the process can take longer.