ATHENS, Ga. — After more than a half-century in Athens as both an athlete and a coach, guiding numerous Olympians and winning seven national titles as a swim coach, Jack Bauerle is retiring.
UGA announced the news on Wednesday afternoon that Bauerle - who came to Georgia himself as a swimmer in 1970, eventually became an assistant and was first tapped by Vince Dooley to lead the women's swim team in 1979 - would be closing the book on his storied coaching career.
"It's time," Bauerle said in a statement. "It's time for me, for my family and for my team. When I left Philadelphia for Athens in 1970, I fell in love with Georgia, but I could have never predicted the good fortune I would encounter and the wonderful people I would meet. I will miss being on the deck every day, but I am forever proud of everything we have accomplished."
See his full farewell letter at the bottom of this story
Bauerle recorded a staggering number of achievements in his time at UGA - including seven team national championships, 40 Olympic medals for his swimmers and 175 individual national titles for his swimmers.
The honors go on and are dizzying: He is the longest-tenured coach in UGA history, matching the longest tenure of any coach in the history of the SEC, 18 SEC Coach of the Year selections and seven National Women's Coach of the Year awards.
His teams finished in the top-10 48 times at the NCAA national championships, 21 of those times inside the top-5. Overall, he led the Bulldogs women's team to 342 dual-meet wins and the men's team to 253, with an overall record of 595-139-4 that ranks him second all-time.
Bauerle was also the U.S. Olympic women's swimming team coach at the 2008 Beijing Games, where Team USA won 14 women's swimming medals. He was an assistant or personal coach at five other Olympics, as well.
Bauerle spoke with 11Alive Anchor Cheryl Preheim prior to the Tokyo Olympics about his experiences and credited Dooley, the UGA football coaching legend, as one of the two most influential people in his life (the other being his mom).
"He gave me an opportunity when I was 27 years old to be a head coach here, and I'm forever thankful," he said. " He's about as special as they get."
At those Tokyo Olympics, his swimmers Chase Kalisz and Jay Litherland won gold and silver to bring home the first American medals of the Games. In all, he coached 87 Olympians who represented 20 different countries in his time.
His swimmers were standout students, as well, with the program producing 416 CSCAA Scholar All-Americans under his leadership.
The University of Georgia school president, Jere W. Morehead, called Bauerle "an iconic figure" whose record is "unmatched in our athletic history."
"On behalf of the entire University of Georgia community, I thank him for his profound contributions to our institution," Morehead said in a statement.
UGA Director of Athletics Josh Brooks said he would "always be a part of our athletics family, and I look forward to working with him in different capacities as an involved alumnus."
The school later announced that Stefanie Williams Moreno, who's spent the last 10 years on the Bulldogs coaching staff, would become head coach of the women's team; Neil Versfeld, who's been with UGA for three seasons, will lead the men's team.
FULL JACK BAUERLE FAREWELL LETTER
It’s time for me, for my family, and for my team.
First, I want to thank my wife Leigh Ann, and my sons John, Magill, and Duke for their commitment and sacrifice over the years. Leigh Ann has not only been a huge source of support, but my greatest motivator. The sport of swimming runs year-round and can be all-consuming at times, but they have constantly been understanding and supportive.
Thank you to our president Jere Morehead, our athletic director Josh Brooks, and our sport facilitator Darrice Griffin for their support. President Morehead and Darrice have been critical in helping us navigate these past few years, and with Josh, one of my few regrets is that I only wish we had more time to work together. I also want to share my gratitude to Vince Dooley and Liz Murphey for taking a chance on me in 1979 and entrusting me with this program. Working for and knowing Coach Dooley has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life, and I cherish our friendship.
Thank you to the student-athletes for everything they have given me over the years. They have truly motivated me as much I have motivated them. During my time, we have had the privilege of coaching 87 Olympians from 20 different nations, bringing home 40 medals in the process. Last year in Tokyo was another major success for our program. In addition to our Olympic success, 62 different athletes have won 175 NCAA championships, with hundreds of All-America honors. I have had so many great kids, and I miss so many of them every day.
But our accomplishments have not only come in the water, but in the classroom as well. Over 43 seasons, our program has produced three NCAA Woman of the Year winners and 39 NCAA postgraduate scholarship recipients, more than most athletic departments across the country. Those statistics are the ones that I am proudest of.
Thank you to the coaches I have had the pleasure of working with over all these years. I will miss the conversation, humor, and banter on the deck at 5:30 a.m. We definitely solved a lot of problems before the world woke up every morning, and I am grateful for their dedication and assistance. I especially want to thank Harvey Humphries for serving at my side for 39 years. I am excited to see the coaching careers of my athletes unfold, both here at Georgia and throughout the swimming world.
Additionally, special thanks to the colleagues and mentors who have helped me become a better coach during my career. I specifically want to thank Bob Bowman, Frank Busch, Eddie Reese, Dick Shoulberg, and Jon Urbanchek for their friendship and guidance.
Finally, thank you to the countless members of our support staff who have given their time and talents toward making our program the best one possible. In particular, I want to thank the employees of the Ramsey Center for maintaining a world-class facility for our athletes and our university.
I am not yet sure of what I am going to be doing immediately, but I’ll be doing something. When I left Philadelphia for Athens in 1970, I fell in love with Georgia, but I could have never predicted the good fortune I would encounter and the wonderful people I would meet. I will miss being on the deck every day, but I am forever proud of everything we have accomplished at the University of Georgia.