CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia, July 10. DESPITE loud calls from its alumni group to freeze its head coach hiring search, the University of Virginia has powered through an abrupt retirement of 35-year head coach Mark Bernardino and a week-and-a-half long search for his replacement by announcing the hiring of Houston's Augie Busch today.
Courtesy of: Virginia Sports-Media
Courtesy of: Virginia Sports-Media
"After doing the research to find a great fit and the type of coach best positioned to take over the Virginia swimming and diving program, there is no question in my mind that Augie Busch is someone who is uniquely qualified," said Virginia Athletics Director Craig Littlepage. "His background with top-ranked college programs, conference and NCAA champions and Olympic-level swimmers have all prepared him to build on our programs' success at Virginia."
Busch is quickly getting used to stepping into uncomfortable situations and finding success. Just two years ago, he replaced Houston head coach Mark Taylor after Taylor died of a heart attack at the 2011 NCAA Championships. He went on to lead the Cougars to their best conference finish ever at Conference USA with a runner-up effort this year after his initial fourth-place finish in 2012. He also led the squad to seven school records this past season, while still sporting a cumulative team GPA of 3.42.
"It is with tremendous excitement and enthusiasm that I accept the head coaching position for this prestigious program," Busch said. "I am so grateful to Mr. Littlepage and his staff for believing I'm the person to lead these awesome teams. Mark Bernardino did an amazing job lifting UVa Swimming to the highest level and I have the utmost respect for him and what he has accomplished. It is my goal to build upon what he has created and take the program to even greater heights. Over time I'm confident we will be able to accomplish this. In departing Houston, I cannot thank them enough for giving me my first head coaching opportunity. The team and administration at UH are first-rate and I have no doubt their program will continue to prosper. Moving forward, I can't wait to be a part of Virginia Swimming and cannot wait to get started."
Previously, Busch spent eight years as an assistant to his father Frank Busch, the current National Team Director for USA Swimming, while coaching at the University of Arizona.
Virginia isn't out of the woods yet, even though its swift moves prove the athletics department is trying to move forward as quickly as possible. Unfortunately for the Cavalier Nation, the rumor mill is spinning off some pretty harsh allegations on what exactly caused the surprising exodus of Bernardino.
And, without anyone going on the record about the situation, Busch is going to have an extremely difficult time moving Virginia forward with that anchor around his neck.
Update: The alumni of Virginia's swimming and diving community that continues to call for more information regarding Bernardino's retirement have posted a letter on their Facebook page voicing support for Busch:
Good afternoon family and friends of Virginia Swimming and Diving,
Mark Bernardino has devoted his career to building a program founded on family, loyalty, integrity, and honor. Following those traits, we continue to support the current and future University of Virginia Swimming and Diving team without reservation. We will support Coach Busch in his efforts to deliver 100% commitment to the ideals that Mark Bernardino embodies -- ideals that have always distinguished the University of Virginia Swimming and Diving teams. We hope that Coach Busch can build upon the foundation that Mark has laid.
We remain concerned about the process that led to this transition and will continue to voice our concerns with University leadership. We still request an audience with the president to ensure that our concerns are heard at the highest level. However, our primary objectives moving forward are supporting the team in their continued pursuit of academic and athletic greatness, and ensuring that the University honors Mark Bernardino and his legacy in a manner commensurate with his achievements, devotion, and character.
- The Virginia Swimming and Diving Family