In the NCAA’s Notice of Allegation — received by the university Wednesday and released to the public Friday — [Georgia head swimming and diving coach Jack] Bauerle is accused of “severe breach of conduct by a coach” and “providing extra benefits.” Georgia reacted by suspending its 35-year coach from all job-related responsibilities “until the allegations are resolved.”
The allegation stems from an arrangement Bauerle is supposed to have made for a men’s swimmer to have an instructor add him to a class for the fall 2013 semester after classes had finished. Bauerle was allegedly worried that the athlete would be academically ineligible after the fall, so wanted him to have a course to work on over the semester break. The instructor was supposed to give the athlete an incomplete until work was finished, but accidentally gave the athlete a passing grade. The athlete ultimately did not need the special arrangement to remain eligible.
The case seems relatively straight-forward though Bauerle is disputing how the NCAA has framed the charges. The notice of allegations (pdf via SicEmDawgs.com) is one of the first issued entirely under the new enforcement structure. It will be processed under the new procedures, classified under the new levels, and penalties will be according to the new penalty matrix. It offers some early indications about whether the system is working as designed.
The NCAA enforcement staff is arguing that the violation is Level I—a severe breach of conduct—the most serious of the four levels. The special arrangement is alleged to be a violation of NCAA Bylaw 220.127.116.11, the general rule on impermissible extra benefits. Also cited is Bylaw 18.104.22.168, the head coach responsibility rule, but the difficult questions of head coach responsibility are not raised, like responsibility for the actions of an assistant coach.
Under the new penalty matrix, the enforcement staff, institution, and involved parties will argue for or against mitigating and aggravating factors. For the institution, the enforcement staff has raised one aggravating factor, Georgia’s history of major violations, but a number of mitigating factors including:
- Prompt self-detection and acknowledgement of the violation;
- Affirmative steps to expedite final resolution of the matter;
- Established history of self-reporting Level III or secondary violations; and
- Implementation of a system of compliance methods designed to ensure rules compliance.
So while Georgia is facing a Level I violation like the involved coach, the balance of aggravating and mitigating factors suggests the institution will not be facing severe penalties for the violation. On the other hand, the enforcement staff found no mitigating factors for Bauerle and the following aggravating factors:
- Violations were premeditated, deliberate, or committed after substantial planning;
- Persons of authority participated in the violation; and
- Conduct or circumstances demonstrating an abuse of a position of trust.
Taking this information and looking at the NCAA’s penalty matrix, we can see how the penalties faced by the institution and coach differ based on the mitigating and aggravating factors. For Georgia, a Level I violation with mitigation puts most penalties in a range that includes no penalty. The only penalty required for a Level I violation with mitigation is a $5,000 fine. Bauerle on the other hand could be facing a Level I violation with aggravation. That would include a minimum show-cause order of five years and a minimum suspension of 50% of the season. The show-cause order could also restrict him from all athletically related duties, effectively banning him from coaching. Without aggravation, he would be facing a minimum two year show-cause order with partial restrictions of athletically related duties and suspension for 30% of a season.
So far the early indications are that the system is working as intented. A serious violation occurred, was reported promptly, and will be resolved relatively quickly after it was discovered. Georgia is getting credit for having a strong recent history of rule compliance and for detecting, reporting, and acknowledging the violation. Meanwhile the coach, who is alleged to be almost entirely responsible as an individual, is facing the more serious sanctions.
Other elements of the new structure need to be tested, like the Committee on Infraction’s panels, the more diverse membership of the committee, the expedited processing of Level II violations, and the limits of the head coach responsibility bylaw. Going forward this case will offer a first look at whether the new structure can accurately place blame between institutions and involved individuals and impose more significant and more predictable penalties on the responsible parties.