Jack Bauerle on plans for retirement, why a Bob Dylan lyric hits home and 50 years at UGA

Marc Weiszer
Athens Banner-Herald
Georgia head coach Jack Bauerle during the Southeastern Conference Championships in Knoxville, Tenn., on Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. (Photo by Steven Colquitt)

There aren’t many places in this world that globetrotting Jack Bauerle hasn’t seen.

His job as Georgia swimming coach and his time serving on U.S. national and Olympic teams took him near and far. He’s visited 31 countries.

Now, he will have time on his hands. He can go where he wants when he wants after retiring Wednesday from the school he arrived at in 1970 as a swimmer.

He has some ideas about where to go with wife Leigh Ann, including a trip to Botswana.

“It’s going to be a safari,” he said. “The time I want to go would be a time that I would never probably be able to. That’s going to happen within a year.”

More:Longtime Georgia swimming coach Jack Bauerle retiring. How UGA plans to replace him

Bauerle was head coach at Georgia for 43 years and spent three seasons before that as an assistant. 

He said he got emotional when he told his team Wednesday that his time as Bulldogs coach — which includes seven women’s national championships — is over.

The school put out an announcement afterwards and then later revealed his replacements — two of his former swimmers that were on his current staff as associate head coaches.

“I felt like we had some great coaches here that needed to be here that are probably coveted by other places,” he said. “I wanted to make sure it’s in good hands. …We’re not going to miss a beat.”

Stefanie Williams Moreno will be the women’s coach and Neil Versfeld will coach the men’s team.

“I just felt like the timing was right,” Bauerle said. “It’s never a perfect time. You think about it when you get a little bit older. I’m 70. As soon as you’re 60, everybody starts asking you, you know?”

He said he’s going to write some rival head coaches — not in the SEC — "that they’re finally correct. They’ve been talking about that I was retiring for a long time.”

Ah, recruiting.

Bauerle, 70, has a zest for life. He’s a Philly guy — from nearby Glenside, Pa. — and Phillies fan who exudes energy when he talks, but has been slowed down some recently.

He said he’s fine now but battled some health issues that kept him from attending the SEC championships this year.

On the day Bauerle's accomplishments, including his team's 48 top 10 finishes and 103 straight dual meet wins. were recited, UGA president Jere Morehead called him an "iconic figure."

Bauerle spoke from his office and planned to talk to swimmers at the UGA camp in the afternoon.

He can sleep in now, but says he’ll miss 5:30 a.m. practices more than anything.

“There’s a great old (Bob) Dylan quote: ‘Too many thoughts get in the way in the day,'” Bauerle said. “I always thought the athletes in many ways were better in the morning than they were after they went through everything during the day.”

Bauerle’s older sons live and work across the country in marketing and sales. John is in Newport Beach, Calif., and Magill is in Scottsdale, Ariz.

“Now I get a chance to see them more,” he said.

Son Duke, 11, goes to Athens Academy. Leigh Ann designs and sells handbags and has a boutique downtown.

“She had to handle so much,” he said. “This is only the second time in the last six years I’ve been here from late June and all of July because of international meets.”

He’s planning to go to the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia in December.

Except for six months when he returned home to work after he graduated, Bauerle has lived since 1970 in Athens, a place he loved from the start. He turned down a full scholarship to Ohio State to go to UGA.

Bauerle said he’s coached more than 1,000 athletes during a head coaching career that began when he was 27 when Vince Dooley hired him in 1979 with an $8,000 salary to coach the women's team. He added the men's coach title in 1983.

Along the way he became Georgia’s longest tenured coach in school history. He even gave the commencement address last December in Sanford Stadium at the invitation of Morehead.

Georgia plans to mark Bauerle’s career by feting him sometime this fall.

“It will be,” Bauerle said, “a heck of a good celebration.”