The full statement from "Friends of Virginia Swimming & Diving for Mark Bernardino":
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.
A group of swimming and diving alumni at the University of Virginia want to know why Mark Bernardino is no longer the head coach of their former program.
The school announced Bernardino's retirement in a release Monday afternoon. Bernardino had been the team's head coach for 35 years -- making him the longest-tenured coach at UVa -- and his 27 ACC championships are the most in conference history.
"We're all very close to him, know him very intimately. And the coach we know would never voluntarily retire in this fashion," former UVa swimmer Megan Evo Greenwood said Friday night via phone from Richmond.
Evo Greenwood and her husband Bo, another former UVa swimmer, have organized "Friends of Virginia Swimming & Diving for Mark Bernardino", a Facebook page questioning Bernardino's departure. The group also issued a formal statement on Friday requesting a full review of the process leading to the decision.
"We want the transparency so we can determine exactly what the chain of events was that led to Mark's retirement, based on how uncharacteristic it was of him," said former UVa swimmer and Olympic gold medalist Matt McLean.
A school spokesperson said following Monday's announcement that Bernardino would not be made available for media comment. According to Evo Greenwood, none of Bernardino's former swimmers have heard from the coach either.
"Everybody is like, "Wow, this isn't like him." He's very involved with his alumni, and we're really involved with him and his family," she said, adding that she learned of Bernardino's retirement when the announcement was made on the school's website.
"I think what is pretty alarming about it is what is not being said by him," said Evo Greenwood. "He hasn't told anyone he wanted to retire, except in his statement."
"I believe that the current team found out the exact same time we did."
After learning of Bernardino's retirement, the alumni have reached out to UVa Athletics Director Craig Littlepage seeking further explanation.
"It's been a situation that there's been a lot that's just been in the dark, and that's what we're trying to bring to light," said former UVa swimmer Stephanie Glover.
"We're trying to understand what the situation is, and we haven't had the opportunity to get any of those questions answered at all."
Littlepage said through a spokesperson that he will not comment on the situation until UVa has hired a new coach, adding "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."
According to Evo Greenwood, the alumni group is calling for an immediate freeze on the search for a new coach while "rallying the troops" to get a meeting with UVa president Teresa Sullivan.
The Facebook page was launched on Thursday. As of Saturday evening, it had more than 900 likes.
Former UVa swimmer Scot Robison says the concern for Bernardino reaches beyond the Cavaliers' program. "There are people all over the country wondering what's happened, and there are people all over the country who love Mark Bernardino.
"They want to know what happened because they want to make sure that things are done right by him, so that's all we're asking for."
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