Virginia Athletic Director Craig Littlepage announced Wednesday that the school has tabbed Augie Busch, formerly the women’s swimming and diving coach at Houston, as the new head coach of the Cavaliers’ men’s and women’s teams.
The hiring comes just two days after a group of nine Virginia swimming alumni called on university president Teresa Sullivan to hold off on naming a new coach until the administration conducted a formal review as to why Bernardino abruptly retired on July 1 after 35 years leading the Cavaliers.
Bernardino was the school’s longest-tenured coach and led the Virginia men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams to their record sixth straight ACC title this past winter.
“After doing the research to find a great fit and the type of coach best positioned to take over the Virginia swimming and diving program, there is no question in my mind that Augie Busch is someone who is uniquely qualified,” Littlepage said in a school-issued statement. “His background with top-ranked college programs, conference and NCAA champions and Olympic-level swimmers have all prepared him to build on our programs’ success at Virginia.”
Busch, 37, is the son of current USA Swimming National Team Director Frank Busch, and spent the past two years at Houston. Before that, he had a successful eight-year run as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator under his father at Arizona.
Augie Busch led Houston to a program-best second-place finish in Conference USA in 2013. The Cougars recorded personal-best times in 90 percent of their swims and broke seven school records while achieving a program-best 3.42 team grade-point average.
But he has a tough act to follow. Bernardino was named ACC coach of the year a record 31 times. His decision to retire last week has been met with suspicion by a group of his former swimmers, especially because it came on the first day NCAA coaches are permitted to speak with recruits. Bernardino has not publicly commented on his retirement, other than in a school-issued statement.
Bernardino’s supporters believe the coach was forced out by the school. A Facebook page called “Friends of Virginia Swimming and Diving for Mark Bernardino” was started by 17 former Cavaliers swimmers last week and it had more than 1,350 “likes” as of Wednesday morning.
“It is with tremendous excitement and enthusiasm that I accept the head coaching position for this prestigious program,” Busch said in a school-issued statement. “I am so grateful to Mr. Littlepage and his staff for believing I’m the person to lead these awesome teams.
“Mark Bernardino did an amazing job lifting UVa Swimming to the highest level and I have the utmost respect for him and what he has accomplished. It is my goal to build upon what he has created and take the program to even greater heights. Over time I’m confident we will be able to accomplish this.”