Hotel should have raised red flags

If a few of the South Carolina players do indeed end up missing a game or two this season because of Hotel-gate, then you can bet there will be some finger-pointing in Columbia.

That finger-pointing may escalate into something much more intense if those suspensions cost the Gamecocks a game. After all, they don’t have the luxury of starting the season with a couple of scrimmages.

Southern Miss is being picked by most people to win the East Division in Conference USA and will come into Williams-Brice Stadium next Thursday fully expecting to win that game. And then Georgia pays a visit on Sept. 11.

The last thing a coach wants leading into any season is an off-the-field situation that lingers, and the Gamecocks have had a few of them.

Losing a couple of players as a result, even for a game or two, would make it a rotten way to start what’s clearly a season of hope in Gamecock Land.

South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Thursday the Gamecocks would accept any penalty handed down by the NCAA and move on. This coming on the same day The State newspaper reported that some players had been living at the Whitney Hotel since the spring and had been allowed to stay there at a reduced rate. The State also reported that at least two players had not made any payments and owed the hotel close to $5,000.

Anybody who knows Spurrier knows he doesn’t purposely cut corners when it comes to NCAA rules. In fact, he’s been known to call out other coaches when he thinks they’re cheating. It’s a point of pride for him to play by the rules and do things the right way.

But in this case, Spurrier and/or South Carolina’s compliance people are guilty of dropping the ball.

Spurrier loves golf, so we’ll use a golf analogy that’s fresh on everybody’s minds after the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits earlier this month.

Somebody grounded his club in a bunker. Perhaps there was some uncertainty as to whether it really was a bunker. But you’ve got to check and see before you hit the shot.

Spurrier has admitted to knowing that the players were living at the Whitney Hotel. He knew it was a pretty swanky hotel, too. He lived there for a while soon after getting the South Carolina job. The place has limousine service, so it’s anything but a roadside motel.

There should have been red flags. Spurrier has said he was unaware of the players’ living arrangements. Well, somebody should have been aware.

And it’s his program.

Maybe the Gamecocks will catch a break and the players will be able to pay back all the money without anyone having to miss any games.

But if not -- and the Gamecocks are shorthanded for either one of their first two games -- you can bet Spurrier will be kicking himself for not being more discerning about that bunker ... or that hotel.