Originally created 08/07/02

South Carolina State's Pough is expected to welcome Watson



ORANGEBURG, S.C. -- Former South Carolina running back Derek Watson apparently will finish his football career at South Carolina State.

Bulldogs coach Buddy Pough has called a news conference for Wednesday afternoon to welcome back returning players and address Watson's situation.

Pough would not comment officially. However, a source connected with the school says the school was expected to confirm news from earlier this summer that Watson would play for the Bulldogs.

Watson was dismissed from South Carolina in January after an arrest on drug charges. If he enrolls at the NCAA Division I-AA school, he'll finish up his college eligibility and end a three-year saga with the Gamecocks and coach Lou Holtz.

Watson, who set the state high school record for yards rushing and touchdowns at Palmetto High School, became Holtz's first major in-state recruit in February 1999. Watson chose the Gamecocks over Tennessee and Holtz credits the running back with beginning a trend of top-flight players staying home with South Carolina the past few seasons.

After a so-so freshman year when South Carolina went 0-11, Watson emerged as a star his sophomore year with 1,066 yards and 11 touchdowns and helped the Gamecocks to its most victories at 8-4 since 1988.

But Watson had more than his share of off-the-field problems. He was suspended by Holtz in December 2000 from the Outback Bowl after wrecking a teammates car the week before Christmas.

The following February, Watson had a run-in with a student referee at an intramural basketball game. He was charged in May with punching a woman and that brought another suspension by Holtz.

Watson was allowed in a pretrial intervention program and reinstated to the team in time for August drills.

But Watson had a subpar 2001, falling to 618 yards and five TDs as South Carolina went 9-3 and won its second-straight Outback Bowl.

Holtz dismissed him for the final time in January after the drug arrest. Watson was convicted of marijuana possession - a trial South Carolina State coach Pough visited - in March and was sentenced to 240 hours of community service.

Watson debated the decision of joining South Carolina State, earlier saying he might be better off going to school away from where he's known.

However, Pough was Watson's position coach at South Carolina the past three years. He said earlier this summer that Watson was on track to join the Bulldogs this year.

Holtz put the 21-year-old Watson's future in doubt again last month saying it was possible the running back might reapply to South Carolina in time for the 2003 season.

Pough's news conference looked like it would end that option.