Former Virginia swim coach Mark Bernardino signed non-disparagement clause, will continue to receive salary


Mark Bernardino retired as Virginia's swimming and diving coach after 35 years. (University of Virginia)

Former Virginia swimming and diving coach Mark Bernardino’s retirement agreement with the university ensures he will be paid a full salary for the next two years and included a non-disparagement clause between the two sides, according to documents provided by the school in accordance with a public-records request.

In a letter sent by Athletic Director Craig Littlepage on June 27 and signed by Bernardino on June 30, one day before he abruptly announced he would be retiring after 35 years leading the Virginia swimming and diving program, Bernardino was instructed not to speak negatively about the university or the athletic department in exchange for certain benefits from the school.

Bernardino will continue to be paid his annual base salary of approximately $104,000 and receive university benefits through March 31, 2015, even if he takes a new job elsewhere. He and his wife also still have access to university fitness facilities and his family will keep their season tickets to all Virginia sports.

Littlepage, who has declined to publicly discuss the details behind Bernardino’s retirement, wrote in the letter that the agreement “confirms our conversations during the past weeks regarding your retirement.” Bernardino has not commented on the situation outside of a school-issued statement announcing his retirement on July 1.

The letter also contains a 175-word non-disparagement clause that Bernardino must adhere to if he wants to receive his university salary and benefits over the next two years. Neither the university nor Bernardino can speak negatively about the other to a third party, including potential employers that approach Virginia about Benardino.

Bernardino, who had been Virginia’s longest-tenured coach, also agreed to work with the university and a consultant “to prepare a mutually agreeable communication strategy that will effectively and appropriately announce your retirement.” The agreement also calls on Bernardino to “work in good faith with the athletic department to minimize disruption” to the swimming and diving programs.

Benardino’s retirement, which came on the first day NCAA coaches are permitted to speak with recruits, was met with skepticism and surprise by a group of former Virginia swimmers. They believe Bernardino’s departure was forced by the athletic department.

On Monday, the group sent a letter to university president Teresa Sullivan asking for a formal review of the circumstances that led to Bernardino’s retirement and a moratorium on the hiring of a new coach until the review was made public.

Littlepage, however, did not heed their request. On Wednesday, former Houston women’s swim coach Augie Busch was named the school’s new swimming and diving coach.

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