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July 1, 2013

Mark Bernardino Statement

Today, after 35 years as the Head Coach of the Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Teams at the University of Virginia—in total, 41 years, including my time as a student, athlete and assistant coach—I am announcing my retirement. It is a difficult day filled with mixed emotions and I have not come to this decision lightly. This job and this University, along with my family, have been my life and my passion for nearly as long as I can remember. But I come to this decision with confidence in the future.

Life cannot always be scripted and does not often go according to plan. I know there will be some who will be mystified by this announcement and the timing; some who will find it not like me at all. Throughout my career, I have tried to be a winner and instill a pursuit of excellence in hundreds of student-athletes. Our team and staff have been enormously successful, and our program is near its prime, so perhaps, in a very real sense, this is the best time for me to step down, with the team poised for continued success.

I have consistently and constantly stressed to the swimming athletes, both present and past whom I have had the privilege of coaching, that true greatness is defined and revealed by how well one handles adversity and embraces the unknown. There is both challenge and risk in the unknown and both can be stimulating and rewarding. As I re-energize, I will look forward to these risks and challenges and their rewards.

I have lived in a world measured by time. Thirty-five years is a long time. Throughout the years, I have brought my passion for the sport of swimming to work with me every day, every hour, every minute, every second. I have passed this torch of passion to my children and my swimmers and divers and asked them to pursue excellence as human beings, students and athletes. I have endeavored to be a teacher, mentor and winner as a coach and I have strived to produce young men and women who are both champion people and athletes. I have preached family, team ethical conduct and behavior, and hard-work above all else, and these have been our secret to success. It has been an incredible level of success that has been achieved by always doing things the right way, for the right reasons and that has sustained itself over a very long period of time.

As my family and I move on to the next phase of our life, I want to thank everyone who has helped give me a career I could not even have dreamed about 41 years ago. Most importantly, I want to thank my wife, Terry, and my children, Kathleen, Megan, Michael and Kevin, for their love, support, encouragement and incredible personal sacrifice in standing tall beside me at all moments in my coaching career. Each of them gave up a large part of their husband and Dad so that I could pursue my dreams and goals to build a team and swim program that would excel on a consistent basis at the highest levels. There is no way to ever repay their love, sacrifice, kindness and generosity.

I want to thank my most loyal assistant coaches, Dave Fafara, Doak Finch, Bill Smyth, Chip Kline and Dean Watkins. These dear friends have stood with me on the pool deck and sought each and every day to bring out the very best in our athletes and teams these 35 years.

I want to thank and praise every swimmer and diver who ever gave their all for the University of Virginia in the pool. The courage, toughness, tenacity and relentless quest for excellence that each of these athletes displayed every day for the 41 years I swam and coached were my inspiration.

My family, my athletes and my teammates are among my greatest teachers.

I was coached, mentored and influenced by some incredible leaders whose genius in the sport and willingness to teach and question and brainstorm and innovate with me I could never do without, most especially Coach Don Easterling. Other great influences of my coaching career include: Jack Bauerle, Doc Councilman, Dick Guyer, Frank Keefe, Dick Shouberg, Gregg Troy, Jon Urbanchek and my college coach, Ron Good.

I have been blessed with incredible coaching colleagues during my 35 years at UVA, and have learned so much from these many outstanding men and women. I especially want to recognize Dom Starsia, Kevin Sauer, Debbie Ryan, Brian Boland, George Edwards, Dennis Womack and Mike Moraghan as coaches who have and always will have a lasting impact on how to best coach at the collegiate level. Their lessons and friendships will endure.

Finally, deep gratitude for my late parents, my sister and brothers.

Loyalty, integrity and honor are the attributes that I have tried to keep at the center of who I am as a husband, father, coach, colleague and friend. Thank you to all who have taught me those attributes.

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