Embattled University of South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia spoke to the media for the first time since his one-week suspension for shenanigans that took place during the Gamecocks’ December trip to the Chick-Fil-A bowl in Atlanta.

Sporting a close-cropped haircut (one of several “suggestions” made by head coach Steve Spurrier), the fifth-year senior took responsibility for his actions and “guaranteed” that he would stay out of trouble moving forward.

“It was a bad decision on my part, you know, down in Atlanta,” Garcia told reporters. “Nothing bad’s going to happen again. That’s a guarantee.”

Garcia declined to elaborate on the undisclosed violation of team rules that resulted in his suspension, saying it was an “in-house deal.”

Reports of Garcia’s hotel room bacchanalia were reported exclusively by FITS three weeks ago.

Garcia said the “alleged” hotel room partying did not affect his performance during the bowl game – as some sources have claimed.

“Not at all,” Garcia said. “It did not affect anything at all.”

Garcia had his best season ever in 2010 (3,059 passing yards, 20 touchdowns and a 148.7 quarterback rating) – helping lead the Gamecocks to nine wins and the school’s first-ever SEC East title. He fell apart in the bowl game, however, completing just 56 percent of his passes and throwing three first half interceptions as South Carolina lost to Florida State 26-17.

Spurrier has indicated that Garcia will have to compete with sophomore Connor Shaw this spring to retain his starting spot, but given his experience against SEC competition we have no doubt that the 6-foot-2, 230-pound signal-caller from Lutz, Florida will be under center when the Gamecocks open their 2011 season on Sept. 3 in Charlotte against East Carolina.

That’s as it should be.

It’s obvious Garcia gives USC the best chance to win games, and we sincerely hope that he will use this controversy to motivate him heading into what should be a history-making campaign for Gamecock football.

To his credit, Garcia also said he welcomed the competition against Shaw and USC’s other quarterbacks.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said, adding that Spurrier made him compete for his starting job last spring, too.