VSDF Asks UVA President Sullivan To Review Bernadino's Retirement

Posted: Updated: Date / Time

The Virginia Swimming and Diving Family hand-delivered a letter to Dr. Teresa Sullivan Monday morning, asking the University of Virginia president to review the decision-making behind long-time Cavaliers swimming and diving coach Mark Bernardino's recent retirement announcement. The group does not believe Bernardino retired voluntarily.

Bernardino was longest tenured Virginia coach, with 35 years of service.

The VSDF is also asking for a moratorium to be placed on the hiring of a new coach until the review is complete, and the findings made public. The group also referenced Sullivan's own dismissal and reinstatement last year.

Bernardino has been unavailable for comment since the abrupt news of his retirement broke on Monday, July 1.

The complete letter to President Sullivan is as follows:

July 8, 2013

Dr. Teresa Sullivan

President of the University
University of Virginia
cc: Nancy Rivers, Chief of Staff
McGregor McCance, Interim University Spokesperson

Dear President Sullivan,

We, the undersigned representatives of the Virginia Swimming and Diving Family, respectfully request that you oversee a review of the decision-making process that led to the recent announcement of Mark Bernardino's "retirement," and that a moratorium is placed on the hiring of a new coach until that review is complete and its findings made public.

We were blindsided by the July 1st announcement of Mark's "retirement." One would be hard-pressed to find an individual more devoted than Mark to the University, its student-athletes, and the team that he has tirelessly built over the last four decades. Mark simply would not voluntarily retire in a manner that would be destructive to the University and the swimming and diving teams. To abruptly leave without any explanation, on the first day that coaches are allowed to contact recruits, with no transition strategy in place and just one coach remaining at the program's helm, is completely out of character.

Mark has always been open with us in times of adversity. Yet his silence since July 1 is deafening. From this, we can only conclude that Mark is contractually bound to refrain from discussing the circumstances of his departure.

Alumni of the University of Virginia Swimming and Diving teams have always sought to comport ourselves in a manner commensurate with the values, traditions, and prestige of the University. We gauge our success by the contributions that we make to the University and the communities of which we are a part, not simply the trophies we once took home. We do so because Mark taught us that we should – and why we should. Our athletic achievements are many, but our teams are nationally renowned for the academic standards to which we are held and the citizen-scholars that we become. In an era when collegiate athletics are being eroded by the cynicism that accompanies the growing culture of "victory at any cost," Mark Bernardino is a bastion of integrity, respect, and honor. We implore you to consider the contributions Mark has enabled us to make to the University, and to respect that legacy by treating him with the same respect; namely, by a full and candid account of the events leading to his retirement.

President Sullivan, you know only too well that such concern for the ethical legacy of Mr. Jefferson's University can breathe life into a grassroots movement to challenge attempts to undermine that very legacy. Such was the lifeblood that propelled your reinstatement a mere twelve months ago. As daughters and sons of the University, we hold the University's best interests close to our hearts. None of us has any desire that the University become embroiled in controversy, and we would never make such a request unless we believed the integrity of the University was at stake. We implore you to prove to the world that the University stands by its commitments to the values that are at its core.

Our communications with the athletic department leadership have not yielded any satisfactory explanation or open discussion. That you are available and accessible is a testament to the kind of free, respectful and egalitarian exchange of ideas on which the University prides itself. It is in this spirit that we respectfully request an opportunity to sit down with you, the Rector, a representative of the Board of Visitors, and the President of the Alumni Association. Our representatives are at your service. We hope to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss this matter. Perhaps this process can aid in maintaining the dignity and optimism of our beloved University.

Respectfully yours,

On behalf of the Virginia Swimming and Diving Family:

Beth O'Connor Baker '83

Bill Ripol '90

Cynthia Roller Cook '04

Bo Greenwood '05

Stephanie Glover '08

Megan Evo Greenwood '09

Scot Robison '11

Claire Crippen '11

Saul Kerpelman

  • Sign Up for Email Alerts

    Sign up to receive news, weather, and breaking news emails from the NBC29 newsroom in your inbox daily.

    * denotes required fields

    Thank you for signing up! You will receive a confirmation email shortly.