South Carolina Dodges NCAA Hammer in Hotelgate Investigation

Compared to what Steve Spurrier and his team could have been facing, they have a right to celebrate a bit.

One of the final strands of the 2010 "Summer of Benefits" investigations came to a close Friday, with the NCAA handing down a series of penalties to South Carolina for players who received discounted rates at a local hotel and benefits from a foundation run by boosters. And the only thing you can say is that things could have been much, much worse for South Carolina if the Association was looking to make an example out of another school.

The way South Carolina reacted also apparently helped.

When determining the penalties, the committee noted the university’s cooperation in the investigation, which went beyond standard expectations, and the university’s self-imposed penalties.

The penalties largely track those self-imposed by South Carolina in December, including the loss of three scholarships from the roster in 2013 and 2014 and three scholarships from those available to offer to recruits in 2013 and 2014. The Association also accepted the university's offer of three years of probation and recruiting penalties.

As you might expect, the university was grateful for the NCAA's relatively light punishment.

"The University regrets the past actions and decisions by individuals that resulted in violations of NCAA legislation," Eric Hyman, USC director of Athletics said. "We are pleased, however, that the Committee on Infractions found the corrective actions we have taken and the penalties we have self-imposed reflect the University's commitment to full compliance with NCAA rules."

Perhaps most significant for Steve Spurrier personally, none of his wins since coming to Columbia will be vacated. That puts him within striking distance of Rex Enright's school-record 64 career wins -- Spurrier has 55 -- this season and makes it a near-certainty that Spurrier would pass Enright in 2013, making him the winningest coach at both South Carolina and Florida.

Of course, that will be about when the penalties truly start kicking in. If what he's done at South Carolina has been Spurrier's best job of coaching yet, and he intends to stick around through 2013 and 2014, it might have just been a warm-up for the challenge he faces in the not-too-distant future.

The good news for the coach and his fans is, it could have been worse.

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