After an investigation that spanned the entire swimming and diving season, the NCAA finally dragged its feet out of the sand and brought official allegations against men's and women's swimming and diving coach Jack Bauerle today. This isn't something that has come up suddenly, since Coach Bauerle had already been suspended from meets all season by the University (though he was allowed to work with both of his teams in practice, which seems an odd type of "double secret probation" to me). After the allegations were announced, athletic director Greg McGarity said that Bauerle had been suspended from all job-related activities immediately, ostensibly until the allegations have been resolved one way or the other.
The full text of the allegations can be found online... well, nowhere. (Thanks, NCAA! Good job, guys. Totally transparent work you've done here.)
Multiple news outlets have reported various bits of the story, but I have only been able to find one actual snippet of any of the actual words used in the NCAA letter, in this tweet from Radi Nabulsi.
Essentially, what I have pieced together from these documents (and from a source I personally know who is close to Coach Bauerle) is the following chain of events:
- As this past fall semester began to wind down (on or around December 10), the academic support staff for the athletic department somehow realized that Chase Kalisz was going to be 1 course short of the credit hours that were required for NCAA eligibility. (Or perhaps the athlete himself realized this and brought it to his coach's attention... I'm making a supposition on this point.)
- Instead of going through the proper channels in the athletic department, Coach Bauerle contacted a professor directly and asked him to enroll Chase in his class, give him a grade of "Incomplete," and allow Chase to complete the appropriate coursework to get a grade in the December/January timeframe. The professor agreed.
- When assigning grades at the end of the semester (December 16), the professor mistakenly gave Chase an actual passing grade instead of an "Incomplete." This meant that the swimmer had received a passing grade in a course in which he had done no actual work.
- The problem was caught virtually immediately by the athletic department, who then immediately opened an investigation and informed the NCAA of their findings.
- After an investigation that spanned the entire athletic season for swimming and diving, we got the following letter from the NCAA: LOL THESE ARE MAJOR INFRACTIONS
First of all, it is forbidden under UGAAA policy (not NCAA policy, mind you) for coaches of athletic teams to directly contact any professors of any of the athletes on their teams. So, that's problem #1. Problem #2 is that Chase Kalisz actually did initially receive credit for work that was not done, even if that grade was given as a "clerical error." So, some wrongdoing was clearly afoot. To his credit, Coach Bauerle took responsibility for his actions in the following statement:
I regret that I have placed the University of Georgia, an institution I dearly love and have given my heart and soul to for 44 years, in this situation. While I do not agree with the charges in the way the NCAA has framed them, I made a mistake.
I want to emphasize unequivocally that the student athlete involved in this matter did nothing wrong. Not one thing. I take full responsibility for my actions.
The academic achievements of the student-athletes in our program over the past 35 years are second to none. My record on academics speaks for itself. Our program has developed 28 NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship winners, seven SEC Scholar-Athlete Award winners, three NCAA Woman of the Year winners, and nine Foundation Fellows.
It saddens me that our coaches, student-athletes and support staff -- through no fault of their own -- were drawn into this matter. I am proud that our student-athletes and our staff did not allow it to distract them during the season and that we were able to work together to reach our lofty goals. I appreciate their commitment to maintaining the high standards we have established throughout the years.
This is an ongoing process, and I will not have any other comments on this matter publicly or privately until the process has been completed.
Once again, as always seems to be the case with the UGA Athletic Association, our hyper-vigilance and rules-that-are-among-the-most-strict-in-the-country have not earned us any leniency with the NCAA rules committee. Instead of charging Bauerle with minor infractions or accepting UGA's existing punishment as sufficient, they chose to throw the book at him with 2 "major" infractions, which are undoubtedly job-threatening and could conceivably carry multiple years of probation for the program. And since Bauerle did work with his teams during practice this season, the NCAA could even choose to strip the women's swimming and diving team of their 2014 national championship.
To be fair, this is not an infraction on the level of "exiting an alley on a scooter while holding a smoothie that has no banana content." It's clearly more serious than that, most notably because it involves academics. At the same time, however, it isn't anything close to something like "Jim Harrick's son teaching a course in which one multiple choice question asked how many points a made shot was worth in basketball."
Jack Bauerle's reputation during his 35+ years as a swimming & diving coach at UGA has been sterling, so much so that he was picked by USA Swimming to coach the 2008 USA Olympic women's swimming team, which won 14 medals under his tutelage. In this circumstance, I admit that his past history of sticking to the rules and high levels of academic achievement by his athletes has earned him the benefit of the doubt in my eyes. This appears to be an honest mistake. The situation does at least give the appearance of impropriety, however, and the NCAA has inferred that academic dishonesty was involved at best, and academic fraud at worst.
I also admit that no one's ever going to accuse me of being the NCAA's greatest defender, and the malicious pettiness and wanton irregularity with which they enforce their rules sickens me. Other schools have proven that if you skillfully stall, obfuscate, feed as much misinformation as possible, and mount a massive PR campaign, you can get off virtually scott-free with pretty much anything. (See: Miami and Auburn, just to name two of the most egregious offenders.)
When it comes to the University of Georgia, we are continually seemingly punished for policing ourselves honorably. From the Kolton Houston debacle to A.J. Green's jersey suspension, and from "scootergate" to this Jack Bauerle affair, the boys in Indianapolis seem to continue to prove that the only way to really get screwed by the NCAA is to fully cooperate with them in every way.
At this point, it might be best just to choose to cheat our asses off and do our best to obfuscate, confuse, and delay the NCAA in any way possible from here on out. I admit the option is tempting.
For now, though, we'll just have to wait and see if Greg McGarity can sweet-talk NCAA enforcers Rocco and Little Tony into somehow letting us get out of this with Jack Bauerle's job and 2014 national championship intact. I'm not super-optimistic.