UGA’s self-policing softened NCAA’s blows

UGA’s swift and decisive reaction to initial reports that swim coach Jack Bauerle may have violated NCAA rules resulted in a relatively favorable outcome when the infractions committee issued its final ruling Tuesday.

The NCAA determined that Bauerle did indeed provide an impermissible benefit and “failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance” when he intervened in a star swimmer’s academic matters last December. Bauerle was fined $5,000, issued a public reprimand and censure, assessed a nine-meet suspension for next season and issued a one-year “show cause” restriction that will keep him from recruiting through April 2015.

However, the infractions panel accepted UGA’s argument that the charges should be reduced from Level I to Level II violations. As a result, there was no probation, no scholarship reductions and Bauerle was able to retain his job as head coach. It is highly unusual for an institution to have what is deemed a major violation without any probation being attached to it.

“What it says is that the NCAA has confidence that (Georgia) doesn’t need any additional oversight other than what we are currently doing,” UGA Athletic Director Greg McGarity said Tuesday. “They talked about exemplary cooperation by the institution. The checks and balances we had in place worked as designed.”

In its 17-page decision, the NCAA listed several “mitigating factors” that weighed in Georgia’s favor, including “prompt self-detection and self-disclosure, prompt acknowledgement and acceptance of responsibility, meaningful corrective measures and/or penalties and exemplary cooperation.”

“At the end of the day, Georgia did the right thing,” McGarity said. “Georgia did it by the book. That’s the way things are supposed to happen when violations are discovered. We took a lot of body blows from a lot of people who thought we overreacted and things of that nature. But I think what this says is, yes, the institution did the right thing.”

UGA indefinitely suspended Bauerle, its highly decorated coach of 35 years, as soon as the allegations came to light in early January. At that time, his pay was frozen, his bonuses reduced by $5,000 and he was ordered to pay the legal fees for UGA’s defense through the withholding of future bonuses. Those fees, billed by Michael Glazier of Bond, Schoeneck & King of Overland Park, Kan., totaled $113,873.54 through October.

Even so, the NCAA saw the need to add the show-cause element through April 2015 and the additional suspension of nine meets for the coming season, which begins in January.

“I’m glad the NCAA process is over,” Bauerle said in statement. “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.”

Bauerle’s issues began last December when 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 an independent study class for fall semester, even though 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.

“The violations in this case are Level II significant breaches of conduct,” the NCAA wrote. “While an advantage did not result from the head coach’s violations, his 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.”