Offensive coordinator Major Applewhite engaged in “inappropriate, consensual behavior with an adult student” in 2009, according to a statement released by UT men’s head athletics director DeLoss Dodds on Friday night.
The incident took place during the 2009 Fiesta Bowl, when Applewhite served as running backs coach. The identity of the student was not revealed.
“Several years ago, I made a regretful decision resulting in behavior that was totally inappropriate,” Applewhite said in a separate statement also released Friday night. “It was a one-time occurrence and was a personal matter. Shortly after it occurred, I discussed the situation with DeLoss Dodds. I was upfront and took full responsibility for my actions. This is and was resolved four years ago with the University.”
According to a letter released by the University from Dodds to Applewhite dated Feb. 5, 2009, the department froze Applewhite’s salary for the rest of the year and required him to schedule an initial session with a licensed professional counselor.
“As we discussed, some of your conduct in Arizona during the Fiesta Bowl week was inappropriate and falls below the standards we expect of our coaches and staff,” Dodds said in the letter.
Earlier Friday, the UT System Board of Regents announced a special meeting to take place Sunday to discuss legal issues related to individual athletics personnel and issues related to relationships between employees and students generally.
System spokeswoman Jenny LaCoste-Caputo declined to tell The Daily Texan why the meeting was suddenly called. LaCoste-Caputo said the regents do not plan on approving any specific course of action as a result of the meeting, which will be held in a closed session.
“They don’t plan to take any action, but they made the decision that this was something they needed to care of and discuss,” LaCoste-Caputo said.
Board chairman Gene Powell said the regents’ primary area of concern is the well-being of students, and the board learned of the incident with “great disappointment and sadness.”
“We expect our coaches to adhere to the highest standards of conduct and lead by example,” Powell said in a statement. “However, until such time as the Board can fully understand the background surrounding this event and its moral and legal implications, we will have no further public comment.”
Applewhite’s admission comes on the heels of the resignation of Bev Kearney, former women’s track and field head coach. Kearney admitted in October to an “intimate consensual relationship” with a student-athlete in the track and field program in 2002. The University placed her on administrative leave before notifying her in January that it was prepared to begin the termination process, at which point she resigned.
According to the University’s Handbook of Operating Procedures, “The University strongly discourages consensual relationships between supervisors and subordinates, teachers and students and advisors and students.” The policy goes on to say that a failure to report the relationship “will be subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.”
But Kearney’s attorney, Derek Howard, said the University’s reasons for firing Kearney made no mention of those specific policies.
“[The University] doesn’t mention [Kearney’s] failure to report the relationship as the reason for firing her,” Howard told The Daily Texan in January. “It’s because she had the relationship, period.”
Dodds said in his statement released Friday that he believes the appropriate discipline was taken in regard to Applewhite.
“In determining appropriate discipline, we analyze the facts and circumstances surrounding the behavior and its relation to job responsibilities,” Dodds said. “Major fully accepted his discipline, including counseling. We have high standards for behavior and expect our staff and coaches to adhere to them in all aspects of their lives."
Applewhite, a former Longhorn quarterback, joined the coaching staff in 2008 as an assistant coach before being promoted to co-offensive coordinator in January 2011. He became the sole offensive coordinator after Bryan Harsin accepted the head coaching job at Arkansas State in December.
Applewhite said he and his wife, Julie, worked to put the incident behind them through counseling.
“I am regretful for my mistake and humbled by this experience,” he said. “I am deeply sorry for the embarrassment it has caused my friends, family, and the University. I appreciate all of them. I’ve learned and grown from this and look forward to my work at Texas.”