UGA, Bauerle accept Level II penalties from NCAA

In the end, Jack Bauerle and the University of Georgia know it could have been much worse.

The NCAA on Tuesday finally provided an ending to the year-long academic controversy that ensnared Bauerle and his ultra-successful swimming and diving program. The NCAA’s infractions committee “substantially agreed” that Bauerle provided a star swimmer an impermissible benefit when he interceded into academic matters last December and also “failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance.”

As a result, Bauerle was fined $5,000, issued a public reprimand and censure, assessed a nine-meet suspension for this coming season and issued a one-year “show cause” restriction that will keep him from recruiting through April of 2015.

However, the infractions panel accepted UGA’s argument that the charges should be reduced from Level I to Level II violations — still considered “major” — and Bauerle was allowed remain as the Bulldogs’ coach.

“It is a Level II violation,” said Greg Christopher, chief hearing officer for the infractions committee and athletics director at Xavier University. “The parties (enforcement and UGA) did disagree. … It’s up to the panel to decide where to come down and our consensus decision was Level II.”

Said Georgia Athletic Director Greg McGarity: “I think we felt all along the situation did not lend itself to a Level I. Certainly that was part of our presentation. So the committee accepted our comments, they accepted our presentation and, after listening to our group they agreed with that decision.”

The NCAA pointed out in its 17-page final decision that the Level II violations still considered “significant breaches of conduct.”

“(Bauerle’s) actions were intended to create more than a minimal competitive advantage and it involved conduct that could have undermined and threatened the integrity of the NCAA Collegiate model,” the panel wrote in its decision.

The year-long investigation and deliberation has proved costly to Bauerle, both financially and to his reputation. Bauerle, who has led the Bulldogs to six national championships over 35 seasons, has been indefinitely suspended since Jan. 3, when UGA began its initial investigation. At that time, he had his pay frozen and bonuses reduced.

Bauerle also agreed at that time to pay the athletic association’s legal fees for supplying his defense against the NCAA. Those fees, billed to UGA by attorney Michael Glazier of Overland Park, Kan., totaled more than $113,873.54 through October. As per the agreement, part of Georgia’s self-imposed penalities, that money will be repaid through the withholding for future bonuses.

Bauerle did not return messages seeking comment Tuesday but issued a statement through the university.

“The past year has been very difficult, and I¹m glad the NCAA process is over,” said Bauerle. “I accept the Committee’s decision and penalties. I am relieved the penalties are directed at me and not the swimming and diving program or our student-athletes, as they should not be punished for my mistake.

“I want to thank the University for letting me return to lead the University’s swimming and diving program. I love this University and my student-athletes, past and present, and I look forward to getting back to work with our swimmers and divers as soon as I possibly can.”

Last December, sophomore swimmer Chase Kalisz informed Bauerle he was concerned he might not pass one of his classes. Kalisz had only 12 hours of class credit to that point and was enrolled in 12 for fall semester. NCAA student-athletes are required to pass 24 hours per year to maintain their athletic eligibility.

On Dec. 10, Bauerle asked Karl Kuhnert, an associate professor of industrial-organizational psychology, to add Kalisz into his Psychology 4800 independent study class for fall semester. At that time, the fall semester had concluded. By contacting the professor, Bauerle violated the UGA athletic association’s policy prohibiting communications between coaches and instructors.

On Dec. 16, Kalisz received a passing grade in the added course despite not doing any work for the class. UGA alleges that the Kuhnert mistakenly gave Kalisz a satisfactory grade as he did the rest of the students in the class. He intended to post an “I,” or incomplete, with the agreement that Kalisz would do the required work later only if he needed the class hours.

In the end, Kalisz passed all the classes in which he was previously enrolled and did not need the additional hours to maintain his eligibility. The sophomore returned to competition after missing three meets in January and eventually repeated as NCAA 400 individual medley national champion.

Georgia’s women’s swimming team, which Bauerle also coaches, claimed the program’s sixth national championship in March. Bauerle was credited with the victory even though he was under suspension and not in attendance and the team was under the direction of interim coach Harvey Humphries.