Former UVa Swimmers Address President Sullivan

Below is the text of the formal letter given to University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan by a group of UVa swimming and diving alumni. The group is asking for a review of the events that led to head coach Mark Bernardino’s departure from UVa on July 1. They are also requesting that the search for a new coach be stopped until the situation is resolved.

For more on the alumni group's goals, click here.

July 8, 2013

Dr. Teresa Sullivan
President of the University
University of Virginia
cc: Nancy Rivers, Chief of Staff
McGregor McCance, Interim University Spokesperson

Dear President Sullivan,

We, the undersigned representatives of the Virginia Swimming and Diving Family, respectfully request that you oversee a review of the decision-making process that led to the recent announcement of Mark Bernardino’s “retirement,” and that a moratorium is placed on the hiring of a new coach until that review is complete and its findings made public.

We were blindsided by the July 1st announcement of Mark’s “retirement.” One would be hard-pressed to find an individual more devoted than Mark to the University, its student-athletes, and the team that he has tirelessly built over the last four decades. Mark simply would not voluntarily retire in a manner that would be destructive to the University and the swimming and diving teams. To abruptly leave without any explanation, on the first day that coaches are allowed to contact recruits, with no transition strategy in place and just one coach remaining at the program’s helm, is completely out of character.

Mark has always been open with us in times of adversity. Yet his silence since July 1 is deafening. From this, we can only conclude that Mark is contractually bound to refrain from discussing the circumstances of his departure.

Alumni of the University of Virginia Swimming and Diving teams have always sought to comport ourselves in a manner commensurate with the values, traditions, and prestige of the University. We gauge our success by the contributions that we make to the University and the communities of which we are a part, not simply the trophies we once took home. We do so because Mark taught us that we should – and why we should. Our athletic achievements are many, but our teams are nationally renowned for the academic standards to which we are held and the citizen-scholars that we become. In an era when collegiate athletics are being eroded by the cynicism that accompanies the growing culture of “victory at any cost,” Mark Bernardino is a bastion of integrity, respect, and honor. We implore you to consider the contributions Mark has enabled us to make to the University, and to respect that legacy by treating him with the same respect; namely, by a full and candid account of the events leading to his retirement.

President Sullivan, you know only too well that such concern for the ethical legacy of Mr. Jefferson’s University can breathe life into a grassroots movement to challenge attempts to undermine that very legacy. Such was the lifeblood that propelled your reinstatement a mere twelve months ago. As daughters and sons of the University, we hold the University’s best interests close to our hearts. None of us has any desire that the University become embroiled in controversy, and we would never make such a request unless we believed the integrity of the University was at stake. We implore you to prove to the world that the University stands by its commitments to the values that are at its core.

Our communications with the athletic department leadership have not yielded any satisfactory explanation or open discussion. That you are available and accessible is a testament to the kind of free, respectful and egalitarian exchange of ideas on which the University prides itself. It is in this spirit that we respectfully request an opportunity to sit down with you, the Rector, a representative of the Board of Visitors, and the President of the Alumni Association. Our representatives are at your service. We hope to meet with you as soon as possible to discuss this matter. Perhaps this process can aid in maintaining the dignity and optimism of our beloved University.

Respectfully yours,

On behalf of the Virginia Swimming and Diving Family:

Beth O’Connor Baker ’83 Bill Ripol ’90
Cynthia Roller Cook ’04 Bo Greenwood ’05
Stephanie Glover ’08 Megan Evo Greenwood ’09
Scot Robison ’11 Claire Crippen ’11
Saul Kerpelman

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