ATHENS — During Friday’s meeting of the UGA athletic board, a four-minute promotional video for the school’s swimming program was shown, bragging on how many Bulldogs were involved in the Olympics.
One of those who was interviewed was Gunnar Bentz. Whether it was a conscious decision or not to include him, the message from UGA has been clear along: It stands behind its swimmer.
Bentz was among the three other swimmers involved in the infamous Ryan Lochte incident at the Rio Olympics. On Thursday, Bentz was handed a four-month suspension from USA Swimming for his part in the incident. But it will not effect his status on the swimming team, for which he should miss no events.
“We fully supported him,” Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity said. “Gunnar fully told the truth, he never led anybody on. Certainly he didn’t violate any of our policies. He’s a great student, he’s a tremendous representative. It’s unfortunate that it happened. But he’s done everything in a phenomenal manner during his time at the University of Georgia and we fully expect him to do that in the future, because he’s a great person.”
UGA swimming coach Jack Bauerle, who was also on the U.S. swimming coaching staff, gave a presentation at Friday’s board meeting, but left before it ended.
McGarity said the school didn’t see a need to do its own investigation. Bentz released a lengthy statement through UGA shortly after he returned from Brazil, and McGarity said “we’re very comfortable with Gunnar’s explanation.”
Steve Colquitt, the sports communication staffer for Georgia’s swimming team, was credited by McGarity for assisting with all the media attention that Bentz was under during the controversy.
Asked if they were upset by USA Swimming’s suspension of Bentz, McGarity demurred.
“The Olympic committee, they have the prerogative to do whatever they desire,” McGarity said. “It’s totally separate from us. Totally independent from us.”