Gamecocks' Garcia considered transfer after 5th suspension
After five suspensions, South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia thought it was finally time to leave. Then came the flood of support from teammates, convincing him to stay despite his tattered reputation. Garcia spoke publicly Sunday for the first time since his most recent suspension — the second of the spring and fifth since he came to campus — for "unacceptable behavior" at a life-skills seminar in April. Garcia was partially reinstated for summer workouts in May and given the green light for all team activities last week.
Garcia had persevered through his previous missteps, but wondered if he needed a fresh start.
"I had been contemplating giving myself a second shot at another school," he said. "It was a rough spring I had."
Garcia acknowledged he strongly considered a transfer, Coach Steve Spurrier even agreeing to sign the papers if the quarterback wanted. Garcia graduated with a sociology degree last May and could play somewhere that offered a post-graduate program South Carolina did not. But Garcia was swayed by tailback Marcus Lattimore and receiver Alshon Jeffery, who encouraged him to withstand the comments and criticism from those outside the team.
"It meant a lot to me," the quarterback said.
Garcia would not clarify what happened in the seminar, only saying that it "got crazy at the end" and he was asked to leave. Garcia called the meeting's leader and apologized the next day.
Tide quarterbacks vie for starting job
The questions around town and campus come at Phillip Sims like a relentless defensive end — one he doesn't try to dodge.
Which quarterback will take the reins for potential national title contender Alabama this season? Sims, or AJ McCarron?
"People are going to ask you questions about it no matter where you are," said Sims, a redshirt freshman. "I think running from it is only going to make things worse. Just face it. It's a competition and everybody wants to know what's going on."
That hasn't changed since Greg McElroy played his final down for the Crimson Tide. While it's the most persistent question facing the national title hopefuls, neither the coaches, the other players nor the two contenders seems to be sweating it too much.
"I've been really happy with how both have grasped the things we ask them to do," offensive coordinator Jim McElwain said. "I wouldn't say one has one thing more than another. They both fit really well in the system we're putting in to use their abilities."
McCarron, a third-year sophomore, has logged a few snaps, including a desperation drive in the final seconds of a loss to Auburn.
Saban has indicated they're running even and that both could play early in the season.
"I think both guys have done a really, really good job. They've worked hard," he said. "They are both the kind of guys who spend a lot of time trying to learn what they need to do. ... So I'm pleased with both guys."
McCarron attempted 48 passes last season without an interception. He's not sure how much difference that playing time will make in the ongoing competition.
"You don't really need game experience that much," he said. "I think it helps, but if you can play the game, play the game. It's going to cut down on mistakes a little. But coach teaches us well enough that we know how to take care of the ball, and that's what you've got to do. Especially with this defense we've got."
UK target Willis backs out on Purdue
Scout.com reported that Derek Willis, a 2013 prospect out of Bullitt East who has recently been recruited by Kentucky and Louisville, decommitted from Purdue.
"Derek, his high school and us talked it over for two hours and we decided it would be best to re-open his recruitment so Derek is no longer committed to Purdue," said Del Willis, his father.
"It's been a stressful few days, but we felt this was best," Del Willis told the recruiting Web site.
According to Willis, Purdue is still in the mix.
"Derek still loves Purdue, but he wants to go through the entire process and take all five of his official visits next year," the elder Willis said. "He won't commit early to a school. He will probably just wait until it gets close to signing day next year and then he will announce where he is going."
Scout ranks Willis, a 6-foot-9 power forward, 42nd in his class.
Another win at Mid-Ohio for Dixon
Pole-sitter Scott Dixon waited patiently before taking control 24 laps from the finish and then coasted to an easy victory over teammate Dario Franchitti in the IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio on Sunday in Lexington, Ohio. The victory gave the New Zealander wins on the road track in the last three odd-numbered years. "I prefer every year," he said with a laugh. "We'll work on that from now on."
Franchitti, chasing his third driver's title in a row, finished 7.6508 seconds back in second. He was followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato and Tony Kanaan. Danica Patrick led briefly after putting off her first pit stop but faded to 21st.
■ Kevin Harvick stretched his fuel over extra laps and an extra day, breaking free on the green-white checkered finish to win the Trucks Series race on Sunday at Pocono Raceway. Rain halted the event after 17 laps Saturday, so the race was squeezed in Sunday morning before the start of the Sprint Cup race.
Report: Hawks sold, to stay in Atlanta
The Hawks and Philips Arena will be sold to California developer and pizza chain owner Alex Meruelo, but the NBA team will remain in Atlanta, a source told The Associated Press. The deal, subject to the approval of the NBA, is to be announced on Monday.
The Hawks' ownership group, led by Michael Gearon Jr. and Bruce Levenson, also recently sold the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers to a group that moved the team to Winnipeg.
Meruelo, who will have controlling interest of more than 50 percent of the Hawks, founded La Pizza Loca. It has over 50 franchised and company-owned restaurants in Southern California.
Jockey completes Canadian Triple Crown
Luis Contreras rode Pender Harbour to a nose victory in the $500,000 Breeders' Stakes turf race Sunday at Woodbine Racetrack in Toronto. Contreras became the first jockey to win all three Canadian Triple Crown events with two horses.
Pender Harbour, the 2-1 favorite, held off Celtic Conviction to win the 1½ -mile race on soft turf in 2:36.1. Celtic Conviction finished second but was relegated to third for interfering with Crown's Path. The field was reduced to 13 horses with the scratch of Queen'splatekitten, the 3-1 early favorite.
Contreras also captured the Queen's Plate aboard Inglorious before adding the Prince of Wales Stakes and Breeders' Stakes events with Pender Harbour.
■ Sean Avery survived a furious rally by heavily favored Trappe Shot to win the $250,000 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap by a nose and Tar Heel Mom scored an easy win in the $150,000 Honorable Miss Handicap for fillies and mares at Saratoga Race Course.
The last word
Philadelphia Eagles backup quarterback Vince Young has struggled during his first practices with the team, but Coach Andy Reid said the team is pleased with his progress:
"He is a competitive son-of-a-gun, and I love it. Does he have everything down? Well, no, but he's got a pretty good grasp of what's going on. What we're asking him to do is like learning French in a couple days."