USC president: NCAA visit was "surreal"

Associated Press Modified: April 30, 2012 at 6:01 pm •  Published: April 30, 2012
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides is calling his trip to face the NCAA infractions committee "surreal," adding that he was grateful the agency accepted the school's self-imposed penalties.

The NCAA placed South Carolina on three years of probation and charged it with failure to monitor its athletic programs, among other penalties, after it found nearly two dozen Gamecocks received more than $59,000 in improper benefits and inducements for extended stays at a hotel for reduced rates and for involvement with a mentoring group from Delaware

The NCAA, in releasing its decision, said South Carolina's cooperation went "beyond standard expectations."

Pastides told The Associated Press on Monday school leaders learned Thursday the NCAA documented decision would arrive on campus the next morning.

"That was a very restless night," Pastides said.

Instead, Pastides was relieved to learn the governing body accepted the penalties South Carolina had proposed to the NCAA in response to the allegations last December.

There was no forfeiture of games or bowl bans attached to the penalties. South Carolina will also pay a fine of $18,500. The football team will lose three of its 85 scholarships in both the 2013 and 2014 seasons. It will also cut official visits for football recruiting to 30 from 56 during the 2012-13 academic year.

South Carolina was placed on probation for three years, ending April 26, 2015.

It was a welcome end, Pastides said, to an ordeal that began in the summer of 2010 when NCAA investigators spoke to tight end Weslye Saunders about his attendance at a party in Miami and about his living in the Whitney Hotel. Several other South Carolina athletes were found to be staying in two-bedroom hotels suites paying less than $15 a night each.

South Carolina was also cited for its involvement with the Student Athlete Mentoring Foundation, which gave school athletes and prospects more than $8,000 in recruiting benefits.

Right from the start, Pastides strove for transparency with the investigation.