The Georgia women’s swimming and diving team was one of the favorites to win the national title when the NCAA championships in Minneapolis commenced Thursday. But Jack Bauerle, the hall of fame coach who has led the Bulldogs to their previous five titles, wasn’t be there to lead his team.
Bauerle remains under suspension from competitions by UGA because of his involvement in an “academic eligibility matter.” Star men’s swimmer Chase Kalisz, a sophomore, was suspended from competition earlier this season, but his academic eligibility was restored, and he is competing for the Bulldogs. The men’s nationals begin next week in Austin, Texas.
The women’s nationals began Thursday, and Bauerle was not allowed to accompany the team or to travel to Minneapolis at his own expense. As has been the case since his suspension was announced Jan. 4, Bauerle is allowed to coach his team in practices, but is not allowed “on the deck” for home competitions or to accompany the team to away meets. Indications are that will be the case next week when the men compete in Austin.
“His status has not changed,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said Wednesday. “He’s coaching the men right now and getting them ready to compete.”
UGA hosted the SEC men’s and women’s swimming championships last month, and Bauerle had to watch the competition from the stands. Georgia’s women won, and the men finished third.
UGA will not reveal the circumstances of Bauerle’s alleged transgression, but his continued absence indicates the seriousness of the allegations against him and the likelihood that his fate is being determined by an outside agency, such as the SEC or NCAA.
Georgia’s only official response is that it is over an “academic eligibility matter.” But there are numerous discussions on swim-community web pages and chat rooms indicating that Bauerle is accused of committing academic fraud in an attempt to keep Kalisz eligible at the end of the fall semester in December.
UGA has continually declined to turn over to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution any documentation detailing its investigation, despite numerous requests, citing state and federal open-records laws. The school cites a federal law that prevents the release of documents regarding a state employee until 10 days after an investigation is closed.
Georgia’s stance is that the investigation remains ongoing. “Until there is closure, we’re always dealing with it,” McGarity said.
In any case, the controversy has raised tensions between some UGA faculty and the athletic association’s compliance office and academic-support team.
Dick Hudson, a professor in Georgia’s college of agriculture and environmental sciences and a close friend of Bauerle’s, wrote McGarity in January. In an email dated Jan. 14, he accused the athletic department’s compliance office of being overzealous and threatened to take his complaints to the University Council “if this is not settled responsibly.” It is indicated in the letter that Hudson is not directly involved in the “academic matter” in question.
“Your compliance people are creating a bad name for your administration,” Hudson wrote, “and I am hearing from faculty across campus about this. Last summer, as you’ll recall, the integrity of one of my classes was questioned, something that upset our faculty over here. And no explanation was sent to me from those who were involved. I understand your need to be compliant with NCAA rules, regulations and policies, but those who work in this area seem to be trying to make a name for themselves, and doing so at the expense of a great coach and person.”
Hudson went on to write, “I do believe there is a need for some in-house evaluation and a better perspective on this situation and its resulting relationship between athletics and academics on our campus.”
Contacted this week, Hudson declined to answer questions about Bauerle’s situation or the accusations in his email.
“I think it’s best for me not to say anything while it’s still an ongoing situation,” he said.
McGarity also said he was unable to comment on any of Hudson’s accusations.
In the meantime, even though he’s not with them at meets, Bauerle continues to get credit for both the men’s and women’s teams’ competitive results. Associate coach Harvey Humphries is overseeing the team at meets in Bauerle’s absence.
McGarity said that’s appropriate because the Bulldogs’ 35-year coach is “coaching harder than ever” when it comes to the teams’ daily and weekly preparations for meets.
“He’s getting the men’s team ready for the NCAAs right now,” McGarity said Wednesday night.
With a Jan. 4 sweep of North Carolina State, Bauerle earned his 500th and 501st wins as Georgia’s coach. By the end of the regular season, he had pushed to his total to 507 (297 with the women and 210 with the men). That makes Bauerle the winningest coach in SEC history, the second-winningest active coach and the sixth-winningest coach of all time.
And there is a good chance that Bauerle could add a sixth national title to his resume. The Lady Bulldogs qualified 16 swimmers and one diver for the national meet, more than any other team in the country.