Whether South Carolina has a starting member of its defensive line for all/part/none of its key SEC East game against Florida this Saturday will be up to the football program — provided the conference concurs.
Early in the Gamecocks’ loss to LSU, defensive tackle Kelcey Quarles (pictured, No. 99) was caught by the magic of cameras that litter live televised sporting events punching Tigers offensive lineman P.J. Lonergan in the facemask after the two had tussled during a first-quarter play. While we can’t post the clip here, you can view it by clicking HERE.
The SEC, which has already suspended two players this season for “flagrant and dangerous acts,” said Tuesday that any punishment Quarles will be facing won’t come from the conference as the decision on punitive measures is being left up to the school. Charles Bloom, SEC spokesperson, did tell Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com that any punishment that is — or isn’t — meted out by head coach Steve Spurrier is subject to league approval.
Neither Spurrier nor the school have addressed the situation, although the Ol’ Ball Coach will next speak to the media Wednesday on the weekly SEC coaches’ teleconference.
As for why something such as a punch is not within the SEC’s purview, Bloom said in a statement that the NCAA has mandated conferences take a hands-on approach to illegal/dangerous hits while they leave other issues, at least initially, to the discretion of the individual schools:
“The SEC has been diligent in reviewing plays that by rule involve the initiation of contact and targeting defenseless opponents to the head and neck area. The conference maintains constant communication with head coaches on matters of penalty violations during the season. In the first instance discipline for violations involving non-NCAA-required automatic conference review are to be handled by the institution subject to the approval of the league office.”
Based on the video evidence, and especially given the stakes involved this weekend, we’re guessing nothing more than a slap on the wrist at worst is in the offing for Quarles from the school — subject to the approval of the league office, of course.
Should the unexpected happen and Quarles is held out of the game, though, the Gamecocks would be missing a player who is second on the team in tackles for loss (six), fourth in sacks (2.5) and sixth in tackles (30).