Mark Bernardino
Courtesy of: University of Virginia
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Virginia, July 7. A Virginia Cavalier alumni group, led in part by Olympic gold medalist Matt McLean, is asking for a full investigation into what led to former head coach Mark Bernardino's retirement a week ago. The group also is asking that a search for a replacement be frozen until said review occurs.

Virginia released stunning news on July 1 that Bernardino, who had served as the head coach of the Cavaliers for 35 years, was stepping down and retiring from his position. The timing couldn't have been more surprising, considering it left the Cavaliers in an immediate hole in terms of Class of 2014 recruiting as July 1 was the first day of recruiting contact for that class.

Additionally, the timing proved to be suspect as the resignation was effective immediately. With a coach of that tenure and stature, teams and programs typically know a move is coming at least a year previously. The standard timing often includes a replacement plan.

Nothing that usually occurs with the retirement of a head coach of 35 years happened in this case, and Bernardino's former swimmers smell something fishy about the process.

McLean released the following statement, on behalf of the Virginia alumni group, to Swimming World regarding the alumni request that someone look into Bernardino's retirement.

We are requesting a review of the events and decision process that led to Mark Bernardino's retirement. Based on our understanding of Coach Bernardino's character and based on what is not being said, we believe his retirement was not voluntary. The removal of one of the most successful coaches in the history of Virginia athletics demands a full and public accounting, which can only come via a review by the University Administration, specifically the office that oversees the Athletic Department.

The Athletic Department is focused on hiring a new coach for the swimming and diving team and is currently conducting a search. We are requesting that search be frozen until a full review of the decision process leading to Coach Bernardino's retirement is completed. Based on 35 years of unmatched success within the University athletic arena, and of producing outstanding citizens and ambassadors of the University, we believe Coach Bernardino remains the best candidate for the position. A detailed understanding of the circumstances that led to Mark's ouster is necessary to determine if the search for a new coach is the best course of action for the team, athletic department, and University.

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