Boston Globe: Bernal Left Abruptly During Investigation

When USA Swimming brought its hammer down on Joe Bernal this past February, banning him permanently for life, no one could verify where exactly he was. Six months later, the Boston Globe’s Shira Springer posted a follow-up in this week’s Sunday edition.

Springer travelled to the coach’s former neighborhood. Neighbors reported that Bernal left abruptly, seemingly overnight last November. The timing of his departure coincided with a USA Swimming investigation into Bernal that would ultimately leave him banned for life.

The article is filled with quotes from former Bernal swimmer and USA Swimming board member David Berkoff. Berkoff, who swam in the Olympics and won a gold medal while training with him, said that while he stood by USA Swimming’s process, that “the allegations…are not characteristic of what I saw as an athlete”.

Berkoff went on to recollect to Springer how Bernal “helped instill a quality work ethic and ability to dream in me.” but that “obviously, there are other people who didn’t have a good relationship and experience with him and that’s unfortunate.”

During the ASCA (American Swim Coaches Association) clinic two weeks ago, we asked Executive Director John Leonard about Bernal’s presence in the association’s hall of fame. Leonard indicated that Bernal remained enshrined and commented that the board of directors has considered a new policy and is awaiting approval from its attorneys before releasing that policy.

Leonard had previously indicated to SwimSwam that the matter would be discussed during ASCA’s September meeting.

The ASCA Hall of Fame also includes Don Easterling, who was recently inducted into the North Carolina State Hall of Fame. Easterling was found negligent in the death of a student-athlete on the NC State team in 1987.

Read the full article for full context and more quotes from Berkoff and USA Swimming on the matter.

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Steve Nolan
6 years ago

From the linked Globe article, emphasis mine: “One day, neighbors saw Bernal, then 74, sitting in his car in the driveway of his Dutch Colonial on Ellison Park. As usual, he left the engine running while he talked on the phone.

Yup, this guy is definitely a monster.

Joel Lin
Reply to  Steve Nolan
6 years ago

The cautionary tale in that article is you wouldn’t want to live in Ellison Park, wherever that may be.

Neighbors care when you talk on the phone in your car and have opinions on landscaping?

All Wet
Reply to  Steve Nolan
6 years ago

Yeah – that’s what this is all about – the engine running.

6 years ago

Chris — did you swim for him or Cudas? One missing item from the article is that (as I understand it) USA Swimming has two people doing these hearings and one of them is a former Gator parent — not saying that if she did the hearing that there was any bias, just saying that the article would have been enhanced had it shown the connection.

About Chris DeSantis

Chris DeSantis

Chris DeSantis is a swim coach, writer and swimming enthusiast. Chris does private consulting and coaching with teams and individuals. You can find him at Chris is a 2009 Graduate from the Masters of Applied Positive Psychology program at the University of Pennsylvania. He was the first professional athletic coach …

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