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Weslye Saunders dismissed from the Gamecocks
Gamecock Central has learned that tight end Weslye Saunders has been permanently dismissed from the South Carolina football team.
107.5 FM The Game announced the dismissal around 2:40 p.m. on Wednesday.
USC athletics director Eric Hyman released the following statement Wednesday afternoon: "Weslye Saunders is no longer part of our football program. Beyond that I will have no further comment."
The press release from the school officially announcing the dismissal of Saunders was distributed to the media via e-mail at 2:55 p.m.
USC is scheduled to practice at 4 p.m. on Wednesday. It's not known at this point if head coach Steve Spurrier will address the Saunders situation following practice.
USC is preparing to face Furman Saturday at 7 p.m. The contest will be televised throughout the Palmetto State on pay-per-view.
After reports of his dimissal broke, Saunders answered his phone Wednesday and said the following to a reporter from Gamecock Central: "I can't comment right now. If you give me a call back later, I might comment then."
Saunders had yet to play in a game this season because he was suspended by Spurrier on August 23 for violation of team rules and hadn't yet been reinstated.
Saunders was reportedly suspended by USC after lying to coaches about why he arrived late to Williams-Brice Stadium for a pre-season scrimmage.
Senior Patrick DiMarco and sophomore Justice Cunningham filled the void left by Saunders' absence and have combined for three receptions for 25 yards in the first two games.
During his weekly press conference on Tuesday, Spurrier said only he hadn't heard anything and that Saunders wasn't back with the team.
That suspension came in the wake of a NCAA investigation that sought to determine the extent of Saunder's ties to a Miami-based agent. He took a spring break trip to Florida along with close friend Marvin Austin, a defensive end at North Carolina.
Saunders was also one of more than a half dozen Gamecock players who resided at the Whitney Hotel. The NCAA questioned the living arrangements of the players residing there and launched a review.
All the other players moved out except for Saunders.
According to published reports, Saunders was more than $5,000 in arrears on his rent payments to the hotel when the investigation began. Under NCAA rules, being delinquest on a debt can be considered an improper "extra benefit" for an athlete.
Saunders's activities probably played an important role in the school receiving a letter of inquiry last week from the NCAA.
Austin has also been investigated by the NCAA for improper contact with an agent and has been suspended by UNC.
Saunders finishes his career at USC with 60 receptions for 718 yards and six touchdowns. He averaged 12.0 yards per catch.
After serving as Jared Cook's backup in 2007, Saunders had 16 catches for 214 yards in 2008.
He doubled his output to 32 receptions in 2009, but didn't score his first TD until the Florida game. He had 13 receptions over the final four regular season games, including two TD catches against Clemson in the 34-17 win over the rival Tigers.
However, for all his physical gifts, Saunders was an enigma to his coaches and teammates.
Despite his imposing physical size (6-6, 273 pounds), Saunders was a poor blocker and the coaches frequently questioned his effort and commitment level.
In an interview last February, strength and conditioning coach Craig Fitzgerald said Saunders was doing better with the workouts since he had finally learned to listen to the coaches.
Despite his shortcomings, Saunders is considered a legitimate NFL Draft prospect. Some draft analysts have the Durham, NC native among the top three or four tight end prospects in the country.
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