Olympic Ambassador

ATHENS - Swimming and Diving coach Jack Bauerle will coach the United States in 2008 Olympics

Jack Bauerle is not sure even the wildest dreams come this big. Bauerle, Georgia's longtime and lauded swimming and diving coach, will be the head coach of the United States women's swimming team when the Summer Olympics begin Aug. 8 in Beijing.

"It's a hard thing to explain," Bauerle said. "I'd like to say it's a dream come true, but as a coach coming up, you almost don't let yourself dream about it."

Bauerle, who just finished his 29th year coaching the UGA women's team and his 25th coaching the UGA men, has stacked up honor after honor as a Bulldog. He is the SEC's winningest coach, an 11-time conference coach of the year and has four national titles and six SEC crowns with the women's team.

"Jack is one of the greatest ambassadors for this institution, not just for the Athletic Association but for the institution overall," athletics director Damon Evans said. "His selection as the head Olympic coach shows you he has gotten to the pinnacle of his profession. He's at the top of his game."

Bauerle is proud, he said, that his position will bring positive attention to the university not just in the United States but across the globe, and that kind of free advertising is impossible to overvalue, Evans said.

"Think about how many people watch the Olympics and how Georgia's name will be spread out not just across this country but across the world," Evans said. "It's something you have to sit back and reflect on to really appreciate."

Bauerle was named head women's coach in September of 2006, marking the fruition of a long international career. Since 1990, Bauerle has spent most of his offseasons traveling with national teams of one variety or another.

"Jack Bauerle is the consummate team coach," Mark Schubert of USA Swimming said when he announced Bauerle's selection as Olympic coach. "What he has done at the University of Georgia represents the pinnacle of team swimming, which is what the U.S. Olympic Team is all about. He brings a fun approach to the sport, and that will be key to producing Olympic success for our women's team."

Bauerle is a two-time head coach of the World Championships team. He was an assistant coach on the 2000 Olympic team and at the 2004 Games as a personal coach.

"It makes for a long year," he said. "That's 15 years of going off for international meets, leaving my family. I don't feel anyone deserves and honor like this, but I have certainly put in a lot of work."

The payoff for all the work is a tremendous amount of pressure, he said. Bauerle equates coaching the U.S. women with coaching the New York Yankees. The women, like the Yankees, are the sport's bully and expected to do well. In the most recent World Championships, the women finished second in medals and gold medals to the Australians.

"We want to be the best in the world and we certainly are viewed as such," he said. "Without question (there's pressure). A lot is expected, and there's an awful lot that goes into it. These are the best swimmers in the world--we have a gigantic challenge to be the best."

The task that Bauerle is least looking forward to is picking his three assistant coaches from a group of seven or eight qualified candidates, most of whom he considers friends.

"Once you are chosen as an assistant coach or a head coach, pretty much your career is not made, but certainly on a great track," he said. "A lot of doors open up." The U.S. Olympic Trials will be held starting June 26 and go for eight days as Bauerle and the USA Swimming officials choose the team. From there, the group will go to Palo Alto, Calif., for a two-week training camp at Stanford University and then on to Singapore for two more weeks of training. The Singapore training site is in the same time zone as Beijing, a critical element in the decision for choosing the site.

"There are a lot of thing that go into this," Bauerle said. He's not kidding. As long ago as May of 2007, Bauerle was meeting with Beijing officials discussing details as minute as how much closet space his team would need. There are also team nutritionists, travel agents and team psychologists to be consulted on a regular basis.

"This is the biggest challenge that I've ever looked at, but also the most fun challenge I've ever had," he said. The U.S. team will move into the Olympic Village in Beijing three days prior to the start of their competition.

"We have to be there close enough (to competition) to be acclimated, but short enough to where the newness doesn't wear off," he said.

When the Olympics are over, Bauerle will be right back for his 30th year with the women and 26th year with the men. The former Georgia swimmer doesn't see an end in sight, he said. "If there is ever a time where I'm not excited about it, then I'll stop," he said. Bauerle not only coaches two teams each year, but also serves as a full-time individual coach to some of the best former Georgia swimmers who still compete internationally.

"Our responsibilities to our starters don't subside after they finish their eligibility," he said. "It's like having another team."

Bauerle has coached 117 female All-Americans, 67 male All-Americans and 12 Olympians of each sex in his time at Georgia. His women's teams have captured 52 individual NCAA Championships and finished in the nation's top five 12 times. The last two NCAA female swimmers of the year swam for Bauerle, and his Lady Bulldogs were ranked No. 1 at the end of the regular season this year.

And it's not like his selection as Olympic coach is going to do anything to hurt recruiting.

"It brings a lot of attention to his program," Evans said. "When Jack can sit in a room with a young person, and they know he was the head coach of the Olympic team, it speaks volumes." When the end does come for Bauerle, he doesn't expect it to be a drawn-out affair, said the man who has trouble staying in the bed past 6:45 a.m. any day of the week. "If at any point in time I feel like it's not as exciting as it was, I'm just going to up and stop," he said. "I don't think I'd be good at tapering it down."

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