By Bob Schaller//Correspondent
The Jack Bauerle coaching tree is pretty impressive, and so is what his Bulldogs continue to do in the pool. When he’s not coaching or assisting the Olympic and National Teams, the University of Georgia coach is winning NCAA titles or coming close, and he explains why both mean a lot in this week’s 20 Question Tuesday.
1. Saw you on the NFL Draft – you and Harvey and the entire staff, a big picture of you and the team with the trophy as ESPN recognized the 2013 all-sport NCAA Champions – how cool was that?
Jack: They had that on? I didn’t know that. That’s funny. I like that for the student-athletes and their families, and for our alums. That’s special. Thanks.
2. Do you appreciate it more now than before?
Jack: You know the older I get (laughs) the more I appreciate them!
3. What’s the longtime Olympic and NCAA Championship coach up to right now?
Jack: I’m on my way to see my son (Magill). His high school team just got in state finals in tennis. I’m heading there right now. He did the clinching match yesterday in the semis.
4. You really enjoy tennis, don’t you?
Jack: I love it. It’s another world and my favorite sport to play, at this time in my life, anyhow.
5. You’re son has an interesting name, doesn’t he?
Jack: Yes, our son Magill is named after (former University of Georgia tennis coaching legend – and swimming letter winner) Dan Magill, who is now 92 years old. He’s considered by many to be the father of college tennis. So my son’s namesake and I are pretty close.
6. How smart was it looking back – though obviously you know what you are doing – bringing Stefanie Williams in as an assistant when Carol got the head coaching job at Texas?
Jack: Stefanie’s a great person and a great coach. She has qualities that you can’t teach. The coaching part, the experience part, comes with time. We have a lot of great coaches on the deck in USA Swimming, and a lot of them will tell you they are a lot better coach than five years ago. The character part and the loyalty she has to our program is unmatched, and going from there, she’ll be a great one.
7. I talked to Carol Capitani last week after Shannon Vreeland, Stefanie Williams, Allison, Megan – basically everyone told me how great she is – you miss her even though you’re proud of her at Texas, right?
Jack: Extremely. I miss her, both personally and professionally. We are quite close, great friends and great professional colleagues too. I couldn’t be more proud. Carol told you when she came in she was pretty raw, but she was like a sponge and learned everything.
8. Yes, I used to think she and Stefanie were so different, but there are some similarities to these amazing women, aren’t there?
Jack: Like Stef, Carol has a great presence about her. She’s tough but caring at the same time. I will tell you Carol would come with me during hunting season and spend time in a deer stand – and she didn’t hunt or anything, she just wanted to learn all she could that I might know about the sport and managing a program. For me, and this is a really important item, assistant coaches – all the coaches – I like to be able to have fun with them, because swimming is a tough sport. I’m happy as heck where she is, and she’s going to do a great job. Her counterpart on the other side (Eddie Reese) is one of my favorite people in the world.
9. Megan Romano mentioned you whispered to her “We’ve got this one” when she was on the blocks before her last swim – she said she was finally able to let it go emotionally, and that meant so much to her – what made you do that at such a moment?
Jack: I just wanted her to remember this. In swimming, you don’t get quite as revered as you do in football or basketball. But Megan is as respected as anyone on the team or in the sport. When the pressure is on, she is at her best. It was a good time for her to know. She just knew she had a job to do. She has wanted this for four years – and wanted it badly. She is an absolute warrior. I wanted to give her an opportunity to enjoy the championship as much as possible, because I know how hard she’s gone after this thing. It’s such a good feeling, and I just wanted her to savor it a little bit. It’s a neat thing, and you don’t want to miss a minute of it. I always tell them, Championships make everything better – they make music sound better, food taste better, and bad weather days look good. After that, we swam freely and had fun. That’s the place you want to get to, but it rarely happens.
10. How important was Allison Schmitt to this team?
Jack: Very, very important. Allison, as you well know, with what she did last year training at NBAC, and with what she’s done the last few years, she would not have had to come back – it would have been financially easier to her. But to Schmitty, if you talk to her, winning this team championship is up there with anything she has ever done
11. Those titles are just awesome memories, aren’t they?
Jack: Winning team championships is what it is all about. I tell the kids, it’s great now, but in 20 years it will be even better. It warms their heart down the road when they are adults.
12. Was this one sweeter after going eight years without a title but finishing second four times?
Jack: You are as perceptive as heck. It made it sweeter – that probably is the best word. But it’s also more important to me, if that’s a correct way to put it. I have had all those athletes in the meantime who went after it and came close – and sometimes a second place is a good thing, and I am just as proud of those teams.
13. Talk about sustaining success – it never gets old, does it?
Jack: We have been first or second for something like 12 of 15 years – you’d have to look that up to be certain, but I’m pretty sure it’s something like that (he is correct – seven second-place finishes and five NCAA titles). That’s a great run. That might be one of the best runs ever.
14. Did you want a title more this year after being so close so many times again?
Jack: You want it most for your athletes. In December, we were very far away from that championship. Some of the kids weren’t on task yet. You come back from the Olympics, and it takes a while to get your feet back on the ground. Amber McDermott had a broken wrist, Maddie Locus was out, Hali Flickinger was out with a rib injury and we couldn’t train her for five to six weeks. Brittany MacLean had an injury.
15. So it was a lot of work to be done?
Jack: In December, we were top 10. My hat is off to our athletes because they came very far.
16. When did it change?
Jack: When we got to SECs we knew we had a shot. Four of the top five teams were in our conference – so all of the sudden the conference championships meant a lot more.
17. Was the chemistry on the 2012 Olympic team like nothing you have ever seen before?
Jack: I think it really was. The coaches really enjoyed it. I was there as a personal coach. It was the best chemistry I have ever seen. It was a very, very special group of people. You had the young and the older – not the old! – swimmers, and they just fit together, they all made it work. And character wise, it was a great bunch of people.
18. What did the coaching staff do to help nurture that?
Jack: We tweaked it a little bit. Frank (Busch) changed it up and made it shorter at the training camp, and all those coaches made perfect calls.
19. How much did it mean to you personally for Kara Lynn Joyce to make her third Olympic team with all she’s been through?
Jack: Kara Lynn and I are quite close. I just talked to her yesterday. She’s very determined. I tell her this when we talk, but I am forever grateful for the day she walked in here. She was one of the best competitors we ever coached. She and Megan remind me of each other – no matter what is going on, if you put them on a relay, they are going to haul. She goes so hard for her team, her heart would burst. Kristy Kowal was that way, too. So is Allison Schmitt. And I have others like that who aren’t as heralded but we just love them and what they bring to our program. Those kids can visit a place not many people know of. They can hurt and go past that place. Kara Lynn is like that.
20. You seem like you are at a great place in life, right?
Jack: I am a pretty happy guy. It’s just fun doing what I do. I am happy on the home front. I have great friends in Athens, and great friends everywhere. I always just try to take a positive approach to everything. I consider myself pretty blessed. This sport gives us a heck of a lot. We’re surrounded by great people who become our good friends. It makes life a lot easier.