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Air Force Academy athletic director had mandate: Clean up misconduct

April 9, 2018 Updated: April 10, 2018 at 7:28 am
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photo - Air Force Athletic director Jim Knowlton speaks Tuesday, April 21, 2015, during a press conference at the Air Force Academy to introduce the new women's basketball coach Chris Gobrecht. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)
Air Force Athletic director Jim Knowlton speaks Tuesday, April 21, 2015, during a press conference at the Air Force Academy to introduce the new women's basketball coach Chris Gobrecht. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock) 

Outgoing athletic director Jim Knowlton was brought to the Air Force Academy as a reformer with the mandate of cleaning up misconduct that had plagued the athletic programs before he arrived.

Knowlton, who on Monday accepted a job to become Cal's athletic director, enacted a code of conduct for student athletes and a change in focus for recruiting that leans more heavily on character than athletic ability.

In recent months, though, Knowlton has confronted hazing incidents involving the academy's swimming and lacrosse teams.

Late last year, the academy suspended more than a dozen lacrosse players and coaches amid an investigation into misconduct, which several sources have confirmed is tied, at least in part, to hazing.

Coach Eric Seremet was removed and Bill Wilson installed as interim head coach of the squad, which is struggling in 2018 with a 2-5 record after finishing the prior season 12-6 with an NCAA Tournament berth.

The academy hasn't released details of its probe into the team and has not confirmed Seremet's firing, although he no longer is listed as coach on the team's website, which confirmed Wilson's new role. In late February, the academy suspended 11 members of its men's swimming team. The suspensions came as the team traveled to Texas in search of its third consecutive Western Athletic Conference championship in swimming.

"The timing couldn't have been worse, but this is about the hard right and not the easy wrong," Knowlton told The Gazette in March.

With top competitors barred from the pool, Air Force slumped to a fourth-place finish. The academy hasn't released details on the swimming case. Sources say it's also tied to hazing.

While strict disciplinary measures cost the academy in competition, Knowlton said he wasn't worried.

"Here's the bottom line for me: I don't have to win games or matches or championships," Knowlton told The Gazette. "I do have to be a key cog in creating leaders of character."

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