Virginia AD: “We Should Use [This Time] To Reflect on [Bernardino’s] Outstanding Coaching Career”

After calls from several alumni of the University of Virginia swim teams, as well as the general public, for an explanation on the retirement of 35-year head coach Mark Bernardino, Virginia Director of Athletics Craig Littlepage wanted the focus on Bernardino’s accomplishments.

“I want this time to be about Mark Bernardino and we should use it to reflect on his outstanding coaching career and his contributions to Virginia athletics and the University of Virginia,” Littlepage said.  He added that he would have no further comment until a new head coach for the programs had been hired.

Littlepage did not comment specifically on the public calls for “clarity,” including from a group that started a Facebook page with over 1,100 members as of Monday morning, nor on reasons for Bernardino’s sudden retirement.

Those alumni and colleagues of Bernardino’s who we’ve spoken to find the timing of the decision to be strange coming off of 6-consecutive ACC Championships for both the men’s and women’s teams, and with no advanced notice (typically, a large portion of the community knows of these things before they are officially announced). We have been unable to track down Bernardino for comment, and further haven’t been able to find anyone who has heard from him since the July 1st announcement.

Bernardino has had a swimmer at every Olympic Games since 1996, including a peak of 5 in London in 2012. He has received numerous awards for his service, including Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award and induction into the University of Virginia Hall of Fame.


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8 years ago

From remember the Titans:

Coach Yoast: I think this is a very good time for prayer and reflection…
Bertier: Coach, I’m hurt. I’m not dead.

8 years ago

something is rotten in the state of Denmark…

Reply to  beerme
8 years ago

Lookin’ at you DeSantis!

Lost Translation
8 years ago

Never swam at UVA but have a lot of respect for the program but do people really want to dig in to this and find out the truth? It is weird timing but the truth could be more dangerous here folks.

Reply to  Lost Translation
8 years ago


Reply to  Lost Translation
8 years ago

I agree don’t ask questions that you don’t really want the answer to.

Wanna know
Reply to  Legacy
8 years ago

I think prospective student athletes probably need to know what the heck is going on there in order to make an informed decision about UVA as a viable or not viable choice. But perhaps the burden is on the PSA to find out on their own rather than to learn it in a public forum.

Reply to  Lost Translation
8 years ago

I have no inside information on this topic and am in no way affiliated with the University of Virginia swim program, so this is just speculation. My guess is that there is something health related. The brief statement from the athletic department seemed to have a respectful tone, so I would not guess that there was any wrong doing.

Reply to  Dan
8 years ago

This is what I too thought when this first came up, however, if it were for personal reasons, then he would easily be able to explain his situation to key members to dissolve the group. Instead he has made no comment on the situation which gives it the smell of a non-disclosure contract. Also the fact that he retired on possibly the worst day in the year, July 1st points away from that. What personal reasons could he have that are so pressing yet unforeseeable that he couldn’t do so a month earlier or later? The timely leave of two other coaches as well also raises questions beyond Bernardino either about the university or the athletic department.

Steve Nolan
Reply to  Lost Translation
8 years ago

This is either the scariest or funniest comment of all time. Completely depends on how sarcastic it is.

Train Wreck
8 years ago

Wanna Know, I agree with you, but at this point given the circumstances, any swimmer with any viable options should be looking elsewhere. This is curtains for UVA Swim recruiting for 2014.

Reply to  Train Wreck
8 years ago

Agree on UVa’s 2014 recruiting. UVa’s a terrific school, but since the entire coaching staff has turned over will they grant releases from 2013 LOIs?

8 years ago

Train Wreck, I’m guessing you’re affiliated with another ACC school, all of which are certainly licking their chops right now. However, while folks speculate about certain facts, these facts do not need speculation — UVA is a tremendous University; Charlottesville is a wonderful place to attend college; the swimming/diving facilities at UVA are good ones; the athletic department fully supports the swim and dive program regardless of the timing of the coaching change; the UVA swim & dive alumni are like none other and they will not let this program struggle even in the short term and are tremendous assets to the team members while they attend UVA and well into their professional lives. The professional network that exists among… Read more »

Reply to  Unbiased
8 years ago

UVA is a great university with a stable athletic department that has never made hasty decisions in the past, that is why the lack of transparency in this matter is so troublesome.

Train Wreck
8 years ago

Dear Unbiased,

“wa-hoo-wa”. While I agree with your characterization of Mr. Jefferson’s University (even the steam tunnels!), it will take a miracle to rectify for 2014 (remember the pledge – don’t lie (or cheat, steal).

Pete Crippen
8 years ago

Mark has coached 2 of our children, Francis col ’06 and Claire col ’11. There is not a finer teacher/coach in America than Mark Bernardino. Not only does he care about the athlete and the student, he truly cares about the growth and development of the whole person. If Mark wanted to retire, congratulations and best wishes. But I will remind all that just one year ago University President Sullivan was forced to retire, and the uproar was so great that she was returned to office within 10 days. Knowing Mark and his family I don’t believe he would have chosen to retire at this time in this manner. I would hope that President Sullivan can relate to whatever power… Read more »

8 years ago

Charlottesville is a great college town and UVA is a great school but it is naive to think a swimmer with national level potential would want to attend a school where the swim program is in shambles ,with no coaching staff ,poor communication, and major drama. I would not be encouraging my kid,who has spent a good part of her athletic life to reach a level that has allowed her to go to a top D1 swimming school, to take such a risk.

I wonder if there have been any requests for transfers their incoming freshman.D’arrigo,Jones, Smith are all top level recruits.

Wanna Know
Reply to  don
8 years ago

This situation is eerily reminiscent of the situation about this time 2 years ago when the head track and field coach at UVA was forced to step aside right during the peak of recruiting season. Why would a top recruit – in track or swimming – not take into account uncertainty in the coaching situation as a more-than-minor consideration in their choice of a college? Sure, UVA is a great academic institution and the incoming class in the fall of 2014 has some time to see how things shake out (until November of this year anyway), but these kids want it all – great academics and great athletics – which is far easier to get with a soild coaching staff… Read more »

anonymous mom
Reply to  Wanna Know
8 years ago

My child is a swimmer coming to the Grounds in the fall to swim for UVa, and this has been a very difficult few days. Most everyone has had valid comments over the last week, and the AD is telling us nothing, just like everyone else. I don’t know how much he understands about swimming, but July 1 is the worst day possible to announce a resignation. I hope he understands the deep experience and expertise that Mark embodies. We want him back, and I know that the other parents and students feel the same. We are trying to take a wait-and-see approach. My child was heavily recruited and could have chosen another program, but UVa was the best choice… Read more »

Reply to  anonymous mom
8 years ago

Just to clear this up: July 1st is NOT “the most important recruiting date of the year” in regards to something like this. The day before the November signing day would far and away be that day. Just because D1 can start recruiting on July 1st, doesn’t mean whoever comes in and starts recruiting a week later (or however long it takes) can’t successfully sell their program by November

About Braden Keith

Braden Keith

Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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