Copyright 2014 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
ATHENS --- Weird. Odd. Awkward.
Those are a few of the words being used to describe the SEC swimming and diving championships, which will be conducted this week at Gabrielsen Natatorium in Georgia's Ramsey Student Center. The awkwardness stems from the Bulldogs' resident swimming icon --- men's and women's coach Jack Bauerle --- sitting out the competition.
Bauerle, who has led UGA's swim program for more than three decades and coached the Bulldogs to five national championships, has been barred by UGA "from the pool deck" while an NCAA investigation continues into his involvement in an academic matter involving men's swimming star Chase Kalisz.
Kalisz has since had his eligibility restored and will compete for the Bulldogs this week. However, as has been the case since early January, Bauerle's coaching will be limited to practices and pre-meet warmups. Though he will be at the swimming complex throughout the competition, he'll have to disappear before UGA's races.
"Jack's still our head coach," Athletic Director Greg McGarity said Monday. "His status is unchanged because it continues to be an ongoing investigation and we're not really sure when it will end. It's not going to change this week."
Although details are scant, UGA's compliance department ordered both Bauerle and Kalisz suspended from competition in the first week of January while it reviewed an "academic eligibility matter."
Kalisz, a sophomore from Bel Air, Md., is the SEC's reigning individual medley champion, won the NCAA 400-yard IM title as a freshman and was named SEC freshman of the year.
Bauerle remains under UGA's restrictions. Though he is credited for wins and losses, he has not been able to accompany the teams to any meets. Associate head coach Harvey Humphries fills Bauerle's role during competition.
"It's going to be a little odd," McGarity said. "... But for our kids it's been this way virtually all year. It is awkward because it is a five-day meet, but the same restrictions are in place for the SEC meet as have been in place all year. And the meet is for all the student-athletes. It's their meet and that's what it should be about."
Georgia has typically strong teams. The No. 1 women's team is favored to repeat as SEC champion and the men are expected to be vying for second behind No. 1-ranked and heavily favored Florida.
The school completed its investigation of Bauerle last month and forwarded its findings to the SEC. Georgia remains tight-lipped over details of the case and has sealed documentation from public review under the legal position that it remains an ongoing investigation. Given the length of deliberations, it appears Bauerle's fate is now in the hands of NCAA enforcement.
Meanwhile, Bauerle soldiers on under the odd circumstances.
"I'm holding up fine because the athletes are fine," said Bauerle, who was U.S. women's head coach for the 2008 Olympics. "They're just a great group of kids. And the nuts and bolts of everything we do is training. Meets are icing on the cake. So I'll be able to warm them up, which I'm appreciative of. After that, quite frankly, I try to get out of the way anyhow. The only thing you can do with an athlete after that is confuse them."