South Carolina gets notice of allegations

It was more than a year ago that South Carolina received an official letter of inquiry from the NCAA.

On Monday came the second step in that process, one that could potentially lead to serious consequences for the Gamecocks. The university received a notice of allegations from the NCAA outlining alleged rules violations, stemming primarily from athletes being given reduced rates at the Whitney Hotel in Columbia.

The NCAA alleges that 12 student-athletes (10 football players and two women's track members) were provided an estimated $47,000 in improper benefits from the Whitney Hotel, where several football players lived last year before being forced to move elsewhere. Former tight end Weslye Saunders, who was dismissed from the team, was one of the players caught up in the Whitney Hotel case.

Also, the NCAA alleges that two South Carolina boosters working with the Student Athlete Mentoring (SAM) Foundation provided inducements and benefits totaling more than $8,000 to prospective student-athletes. Freshman receiver Damiere Byrd was a member of the SAM Foundation and is currently serving a four-game suspension. He was also required to pay back $2,700 in extra benefits.

Both of these situations are "considered to be potential major violations," according to the NCAA's letter, and the university was charged with failure to monitor in both cases.

South Carolina will have until Dec. 14 to respond to these charges and will likely have to appear before the Committee on Infractions next February in Los Angeles. There's a chance South Carolina will self-impose penalties. The university has already disassociated itself from two people as a result of these charges.

The other thing to note here is that South Carolina is still on the hook as a potential repeat offender because of violations that occurred under former coach Lou Holtz, a case that was decided in November 2005. The NCAA can hit a school with more severe penalties if that school is found to be a repeat violater.

“The University will review the notice and respond accordingly," South Carolina president Harris Pastides said in a statement. "I assure you that we will continue to take all aspects of this investigation very seriously. We are prepared to continue to work with the NCAA to resolve any issues."