Bev Kearney

Photo Credit: Shelby Tauber | Daily Texan Staff

Just days after Charlie Strong was introduced as the University’s new head football coach, booster Red McCombs took to the airwaves to voice his thoughts on the new hire. In an interview with ESPN 1250 San Antonio, McCombs, a former owner of the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets and Minnesota Vikings, described the University’s decision as a “kick in the face.”

“I don’t have any doubt that Charlie is a fine coach. I think he would make a great position coach, maybe a coordinator. But I don’t believe [he belongs at] what should be one of the three most powerful university programs in the world right now at UT-Austin,” McCombs added.  

McCombs’ comments came off as insensitive, pompous and racist given that he reacted so strongly to the hiring of Strong, the University’s first African-American men’s head coach and only the second African-American head coach in school history. To say that Strong isn’t the right man for the job is one thing, but to dismiss his accomplishments as only warranting a position coach or coordinating job is downright degrading.

Bryan Davis, a government senior and president of the Society for Cultural Unity, felt McCombs’ remarks were “subjective, personal and rooted in something other than football commentary.”  

Kevin Cokley, a professor of educational psychology and of African and African diaspora studies, added, “I think Strong will probably be scrutinized even more closely than perhaps a white coach, in part to see how he deals with the influential big-money boosters who are part of the ‘white Texas good ole boy’ club. Also, given the negative stereotypes that exist about African-American intelligence I would not be surprised if some critics start questioning his play calling and his decision making to a greater degree than occurred with Mack Brown.”

Even though McCombs is the only booster who has publicly spoken out against Strong, it is an indication of the uphill battle to come, especially when considering the fate of the University’s last and only other African-American head coach, Bev Kearney.

Kearney, who filed a $1 million lawsuit against the University, claims she was fired for having a consensual relationship with a student-athlete, while other UT white male employees in similar relationships — particularly Major Applewhite — did not face equal disciplinary action. 

The University has failed to clearly illustrate why Kearney was fired while Applewhite merely received a pay cut for committing the same offense. So it seems as if race and gender play a bigger role in the case than the University is letting on. 

Though the University has only had two African-American head coaches, it is important to note how both have faced questionable treatment seemingly because of their race. From McCombs’ dismissive comments about Strong’s accomplishments to the University’s handling of Kearney’s consensual student relationship, it’s commendable that Strong still wants to accept the position. 

When asked about McCombs’ comments, Strong replied, “There are going to be statements made … once you win some football games, you’re going to change a lot of people’s attitudes.” 

However, there are many people on campus whose opinions differ from McCombs’. 

Curtis Riser, a physical culture and sports sophomore and offensive guard on UT’s football team, said, “I’m glad to have our first African-American [men’s head football coach] at Texas. [Red McCombs] is entitled to his own opinion, but I’m just happy to move forward with our new coach.” 

But under no circumstances is the hiring of Strong enough to compensate for the disproportionately low number of African-Americans on campus. After all, the football team was predominantly black before Strong’s arrival. When the presence of black males at UT expands beyond the football field, then and only then will true progress be made.

“The hiring of Charlie Strong is certainly wonderful and is very exciting for UT. However, I would caution us to not make this a panacea for race relations,” Cokley said.  

Even if Strong’s presence doesn’t immediately fix race relations at UT, having a man of color in a position of such power is monumental, given that black males make up less than 2 percent of the University’s total population. 

“UT hiring its first black football coach is symbolic in terms of exhibiting black leadership that has potential to further discourse about race relations here,” Davis said.  

McCombs has since apologized for his derogatory comments about the hiring of Strong, but his insistence that he was unaware of the racist undertones of his comments further emphasizes that race relations continue to be an issue at UT. While McCombs has taken responsibility for his actions, as a man whose name is plastered across the University’s business school, McCombs should exercise better judgment. 

Johnson is an undeclared junior from DeSoto.

On Nov. 14, Bev Kearney, former University of Texas women’s track coach, filed a wrongful termination suit against the University on the charge of gender and race discrimination — the latest twist in a news story that’s been hanging over UT Athletics since January. 

With the lawsuit pending and much evidence left to be aired, the results of Kearney’s legal effort are still up in the air. But the story behind it — and the implications about race, gender and student-staff relationships within it — has been getting far less attention from students than it deserves.

During Kearney’s 21 years at the University, she was lauded for her mentorship of student athletes and involvement in the community, and held the honor of being UT’s first black head coach in any sport. She accepted awards for her performance on national television and was frequently invited to speaking events by UT administrators. 

Granted, some questions have been raised about Kearney’s coaching techniques: An October article in Texas Monthly contained stories from former students who felt abused and neglected under Kearney’s coaching. 

But it was a consensual affair with one of her former student-athletes that the University is claiming as its reason for Kearney’s termination, an affair Kearney failed to report until asked about it 10 years later.

According to University Policy 3-3050, a consensual relationship between “employees with direct teaching, supervisory, advisory or evaluative responsibility over other employees, students and/or student employees” may exist, though the University disapproves of one happening and the teacher or supervisor has an obligation to report the relationship’s existence. 

In other words, the University allows for consensual relationships between employees and students. And yet, in an email to CNN.com, Patti Ohlendorf, head of the University’s legal affairs department, said: “In Intercollegiate Athletics and the coaching profession, it is unprofessional and unacceptable for a head coach to carry on an intimate relationship with a student-athlete that he or she is coaching,” indicating that Kearney’s termination resulted not from her failure to report her affair, but rather from having the affair at all.

But Kearney has not been the only member of the University athletic department to have sexual relations with a student. Soon after the University initially attacked Kearney, Major Applewhite, then an offensive coordinator for the football team, made public a “one-time” fling with a student trainer in 2009. At the time of his confession, he was an assistant football coach. While the University forced Kearney to resign, they punished Applewhite with a temporary pay freeze and then gave him a promotion and raise the following year.

In other words, Kearney and Applewhite — both coaches — had sex with students. Kearney, an African-American female, lost her job and is currently unemployed. Applewhite, a white male, suffered a temporary pay cut and is currently a co-offensive coordinator of the football team. And, when asked about the difference between the treatment of both by Texas Monthly, Ohlendorf responded by saying only, “We see [Applewhite’s case] as different … He’s not a head coach.”

From the outside looking in, the difference between an assistant and head coach seems not as monumental as the differences between Kearney and her colleagues in race, gender and background.

If Kearney was fired solely because of her actions, then the University needs to explain in greater detail how her case differs from Applewhite’s. In a case where racial and gender discrimination are alleged, the University has no right to be tight-lipped in its comments and ambiguous in its policies. 

Bev Kearney, former women’s track and field head coach, filed a lawsuit against the University alleging discrimination based on her race and her gender Thursday, according to her attorney, Derek Howard.

Kearney resigned in January after being told the University was prepared to fire her for a having a consensual relationship in 2002 with Raasin McIntosh, who was a student-athlete on Kearney’s team.

In her lawsuit — which seeks more than $1 million — Kearney said Bubba Thornton, former men’s track and field head coach, consistently demeaned her in front of others and falsely accused her of committing NCAA infractions.

The lawsuit points fingers at a wide range of University officials who Kearney claims she reported the harassment incidents to and chose to do nothing about it. The list includes men’s and women’s head athletic directors DeLoss Dodds and Chris Plonsky, Jody Conradt, former women’s head athletic director, Patricia Ohlendorf, vice president for legal affairs, Gregory Vincent, vice president of the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement and individuals in the human resources department.

"The University of Texas will thoroughly review the unfounded allegations of Ms. Kearney's lawsuit and respond through proper legal channels," Ohlendorf said in a statement.

The lawsuit also alleges that other University employees — predominately white males — have been involved in relationships with students or direct subordinates and have not received any disciplinary action. It cites the University’s handling of an incident with football co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite as an example. Applewhite engaged in “inappropriate, consensual behavior with an adult student” in 2009, according to a letter from Dodds obtained by The Daily Texan through the Texas Public Information Act in February of this year. Applewhite’s salary was suspended for a year following the incident, but he has since received promotions and raises.

"When the university reviews inappropriate behavior by its employees, each case is evaluated on its individual facts," Ohlendorf said in a statement. "In this case, it was evident that Ms. Kearney displayed a serious lack of judgment by having an inappropriate, intimate, long-term relationship with a member of her team. The team member later reported it to university officials who pursued all appropriate action."

Kearney took the helm of the women’s track and field program in 1992, and her teams have won six NCAA championships.

Kearney was placed on administrative leave by the University almost exactly one year ago after McIntosh revealed her past relationship with her coach to officials in UT athletics. Since then, much has changed in the department. Thornton announced his retirement in June and Dodds plans to step down in August. The UT System Board of Regents voted to approve Steve Patterson, the newly hired men's head athletic director, Monday.

Bev Kearney, former women’s track and field coach, is alleging she was “singled out and treated differently” than her male, non-African American counterparts, according to her filed complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission.

“I believe that I was subjected to a severely hostile work environment and constructively discharged by forcing me to resign in lieu of being fired because of my race, color and gender,” Kearney said in the complaint.

In her complaint, Kearney alleges she was publicly demeaned and falsely accused of NCAA violations by Bubba Thornton, men’s track and field head coach; she was harassed and her complaints were ignored by administrators; she was not given salary raises granted to other coaches; and she was told she was being fired for violating an “unwritten” policy, despite colleagues not receiving the same treatment for similar acts.

Kearney’s attorney, Derek Howard, said he filed the complaint March 12 with the “Civil Rights and Discrimination Division” of the Texas Workforce Commission. The commission has 180 days to investigate the complaint after which Kearney has a right to sue. 

“Coach Kearney’s allegations of discrimination will be reviewed thoroughly and responded to according to [the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] and Texas Workforce Commission procedures,” said Patricia Ohlendorf, the University’s Vice President for Legal Affairs, in a statement last week.

Kearney resigned in January after being told the University was prepared to fire her for a having a consensual relationship with a former student-athlete in 2002. In the complaint, she cites the University’s handling of an incident concerning football offensive coordinator Major Applewhite as a “glaring example” of differing treatment. Applewhite engaged in “inappropriate, consensual behavior with an adult student” in 2009. Applewhite’s salary was suspended for a year following the incident, but he has since received promotions and raises.

The complaint also levies several allegations of harassment by Thornton, who she alleges would speak negatively about her character, professionalism and coaching abilities to others in the athletic department. She said while several administrators including head athletic directors DeLoss Dodds and Chris Plonsky acknowledged the harassment, they did nothing to stop it.

A pair of 2004 letters sent from Kearney to Dodds highlights a longstanding friction between Kearney and Thornton. In the letters, obtained by The Daily Texan through the Texas Public Information Act, Kearney alleges Thornton offered her job to a coach at another university and would speak openly about becoming head coach of both men’s and women’s track and field programs.

The complaint is filed against the entire University, not just the athletic department. In 2011, a former UT employee, Glyn Rogers, filed a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission alleging racial and retaliatory discrimination specifically against the athletic department, according to documents obtained by the Texan through the Texas Public Information Act. UT spokesman Gary Susswein  said the case was dismissed by the Texas Workforce Commission and no lawsuits were filed.

Additional reporting by Hannah Jane DeCiutiis

Published on March 25, 2013 as "Kearney files to sue University". 

This article was edited for accuracy after its original posting. Kearney will be allowed to sue after 180 days have elapsed from the time of the filing regardless of the results of an investigation.

Bev Kearney, former UT women’s track and field head coach, has filed an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and Texas Workforce Commission discrimination charge against the University. Kearney, the most successful coach in UT athletics history, was the first African-American to serve as a head coach at UT. After admitting to having “an intimate consensual relationship” with a female student-athlete on her team in 2002, she resigned on Jan. 5, as the University was preparing to begin her termination process.

Although the University appears to have disciplined Kearney in a manner consistent with its own policy, the allegations highlight a lack of transparency in the University’s handling of student-staff relationships.

Kearney’s attorney, Derek Howard, told the Austin American-Statesman that the complaint will reference UT football’s co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite, a white male who admitted to an inappropriate consensual relationship with a female student trainer in 2009. Applewhite was discovered to have disclosed his relationship promptly and had his salary frozen as a result, after an open records request by the Texan brought UT Athletics documentation to light.

Howard said he filed the gender and race discrimination complaint on Kearney’s behalf Tuesday March 12. The TWC does not recognize discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation as a type of employment discrimination. The EEOC and TWC will have 180 days to investigate the allegations, after which time Howard said he will file a lawsuit against the University, regardless of any decisions reached by the agencies. The University, pursuant to its Handbook of Operating Procedures’ nondiscrimination policy, does prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Race, gender and sexual orientation are not the only significant differences between the facts of the Kearney and Applewhite cases. Whereas Applewhite quickly informed his supervisor of his “inappropriate conduct,” Kearney failed to disclose her relationship, which under University policy left her “subject to disciplinary action, up to and including termination.”

In January, Howard told the Texan that the University doesn’t cite Kearney’s “failure to report the relationship as the reason for firing her.” Instead, Howard said, “It’s because she had the relationship, period.” Indeed, Patti Ohlendorf, UT’s vice president for legal affairs, cited a rationale absent from the University’s Handbook of Operating Procedures for Kearney’s discipline: “In the case of a head coach and a student-athlete on his or her team, the University’s position is that that cannot be condoned in any event.”

Howard claims to know of at least 10 other instances of inappropriate relationships at UT. It remains to be seen whether Kearney was a victim of workplace discrimination. We hope that isn’t the case. But, allegations of discrimination aside, the University’s implementation of its policy is inadequate at best. The University risks the appearance of discriminatory and arbitrary enforcement if its policy is not made more transparent and realistic. Consensual student-staff relationships, a reality on our campus, have consequences too far-reaching to be dealt with haphazardly.

Bev Kearney, former women’s track and field head coach, has filed a discrimination complaint against the University, according to her attorney, Derek Howard. 

She filed the complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission’s Civil Rights Division, which will now conduct an investigation to see if there were any violations of the Texas Labor Code. The commission has 180 days from the filing date to investigate the complaint and determine whether Kearney has the right to sue the University.

Patricia Ohlendorf, vice president for legal affairs, said the University will also begin reviewing the complaint.

“Coach Kearney’s allegations of discrimination will be reviewed thoroughly and responded to according to [the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] and Texas Workforce Commission procedures,” Ohlendorf said in a statement.

Kearney resigned in January after she was told the University was prepared to fire her because of a relationship she had with a student-athlete in 2002. 

The former student-athlete reported the relationship in October, after which Kearney was put on paid leave. Ohlendorf said in the statement Kearney was given an opportunity to provide her side of the story and appeal any decisions the University could make, but she chose to resign. 

Kearney and Howard contest that the University handled her situation differently than similar situations have been handled in the past. In February, a Texas Public Information Act request by the Daily Texan revealed football offensive coordinator Major Applewhite engaged in “inappropriate, consensual behavior with an adult student” during the 2009 Fiesta Bowl festivities. Applewhite’s salary was frozen for a year, but he was not fired.

Ohlendorf said the University reviews allegations and reports of unprofessional relationships on a case-by-case basis.

“As Coach Kearney was told by the University, the relationship that she had with the student-athlete is unprofessional and crosses the line of trust placed in the head coach for all aspects of the athletic program and the best interests of the student-athletes on the team,” she said in the statement.

Published on March 18, 2013 as "Former coach files discrimination suit". 

Kearney files employment discrimination complaint against University

Bev Kearney, former women’s track and field head coach, has filed a discrimination complaint against the University, according to her attorney, Derek Howard.

The complaint has been filed with the Texas Workforce Commission’s Civil Rights Division, which will then conduct an investigation to see if there were any violations of the Texas Labor Code.

Kearney resigned in January after she was told the University was prepared to fire her because of a relationship she had with a student-athlete in 2002. The former student-athlete reported the relationship in October, after which Kearney was put on paid leave.

Kearney and Howard have said in the past that the way her situation was handled by the University is different from the way other situations have been handled.

The Texas Workforce Commission will have 180 days to investigate the complaint, after which it determines whether Kearney has the right to sue the University. 

A pair of letters obtained by The Daily Texan highlight an enduring friction between Bev Kearney, the former women’s track and field coach who resigned in January, and Bubba Thornton, men’s track and field coach.

The letters, from Kearney to DeLoss Dodds, men’s athletics director, in 2004 were obtained by the Texan through the Texas Public Information Act.

In a May 4, 2004, letter to Dodds, Kearney filed several complaints against Thornton: that he had spread negative comments about her to her players and peers, that he publicly disrespected her at the Texas Relays and that he was angling to be the director of both the men’s and women’s programs.

“Recently I feel my character, my professionalism and my integrity has been defamed and slandered by Coach Bubba Thornton,” Kearney said in the letter. “Bubba has not only brought into question my coaching capabilities but more importantly his actions against me have begun to effect [sic] my reputation.”

A week later, Kearney sent a follow-up memo to Dodds and Chris Plonsky, women’s athletics director. Kearney again addressed Thornton’s desire to be the track director, claiming that Thornton had offered Kearney’s job to an unnamed track coach at another major university. The coach then informed Kearney.

“I was informed from the [coach] that Bubba has indeed offered my job to the current head track coach of this other university as he is anticipating taking over both of our programs,” Kearney said in the May 11 memo.

“As I am sure you can understand, I also feel that I have been put in a very awkward and overwhelmingly precarious position,” Kearney continued in the memo. “In addition, I do not want to jeopardize my relationship with you. I am sure you would agree that being forthcoming about what I have learned is the only thing I can do.”

Kearney declined to comment for this story through her attorney. Thornton did not return multiple requests for comment.

In an interview Thursday, Dodds said the relationship between Kearney and Thornton was “fine.” When shown the letters, Dodds said he could not remember them.

”Overall, I would say their relationship was OK,” Dodds said. “[Those letters] must have been before last week. I can’t remember that long ago.” 

Nick Voinis, senior associate athletics director, who was present for the interview in Dodds’ office, said he was aware of correspondence from Kearney regarding Thornton.

“I heard there may have been a memo or two there,” Voinis said. 

After she was told the University was prepared to fire her for having a relationship with a former student-athlete in her program in 2002, Kearney, the head coach since 1993, resigned in January. She led the Longhorns to six national championships — three indoor and three outdoor — during her 20-year tenure. 

Thornton became the head of the men’s program in 1996 after a 13-year stint as head coach of his alma mater, Texas Christian University. He served as the head coach of the men’s track and field team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. 

Rose Brimmer, an assistant coach under Kearney, is the interim head coach of the women’s track and field program. Dodds said they are still in the process of deciding what to do about the position for the future.

Asked if the athletics department is considering combining the men’s and women’s programs with Thornton in charge, Dodds — a former track coach himself — said they are a few weeks from making that decision.

“It seems the world has pretty much gone to one head coach and assistant coaches,” Dodds said. “We’ve stayed with a two-coach system, but [putting Thornton in charge of both programs is] part of the discussion about what we need to do.”

— Reporting by Christian Corona, Shabab Siddiqui and Trey Scott

Beverly Kearney's complaints against Bubba Thornton

Beverly Kearney and Bubba Thornton Open Record Request

Published on February 22, 2013 as "Letters reveal Kearney's rift with coach". 

Photo Credit: Elisabeth Dillon | Daily Texan Staff

As the UT System Board of Regents conducts a review of policies concerning employee-student relationships, UT uses two separate policies to deal with such incidents, with overlapping disclosure procedures and a range of consequences.

The policies came into play recently when two separate incidents involving UT coaches surfaced. In January, Bev Kearney, former women’s track and field head coach, resigned after she was told the University was prepared to fire her for having a relationship with a former student-athlete in her program about 10 years ago. Last month, an open records request by The Daily Texan revealed football co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite had an incident with an unnamed student in 2009, which was described by DeLoss Dodds, men’s head athletic director, as “inappropriate, consensual behavior.” As punishment, Applewhite did not receive a raise that year and had to schedule an initial appointment with a counselor, but was not fired and received a promotion two years later. 

The University currently has separate but overlapping policies for consensual relationships and sexual misconduct. Kearney and Applewhite’s incidents appear to have been dealt with under the consensual relationships policy, though Katherine Antwi Green, assistant vice president for the Office of Institutional Equity, which sponsors both policies, said her office does not speak to individual cases.

“We do not interpret policy,” Green said. 

According to the University Policy Office, sexual misconduct is defined as “behavior or conduct of a sexual nature that is unprofessional and/or inappropriate for the educational and working environment.” One of the behaviors of sexual misconduct outlined by the policy is a “failure to observe the appropriate boundaries of the supervisor/subordinate or faculty/student relationship, including the participation of a supervisor, teacher, advisor or coach in an unreported consensual romantic or sexual relationship with a subordinate employee or student.”

Meanwhile, a consensual relationship is defined as “a mutually acceptable, romantic and/or sexual relationship between a University employee with supervisory, teaching, evaluation or advisory authority and an employee, student and/or student employee who is directly supervised, taught, evaluated or advised by that employee.”

Green said the difference between consensual relationships and sexual misconduct usually comes down to a matter of consent.  

“The key, critical difference is the element of belief that both parties consented to the relationship,” Green said. 

President William Powers Jr. and Nick Voinis, senior associate athletics director for communications, did not return multiple requests for comment. 

“Speaking generally, whenever we receive allegations of inappropriate behavior, we take them seriously, investigate promptly, and determine the appropriate action on a case-by-case basis based on the information we have at the time,” UT spokesman Gary Susswein said. 

The regents have the second day of their meeting on Thursday, though a discussion of the policy is not on their agenda. 

Printed on Thursday, February 14, 2013 as: Discrepancies revealed in relationship policies 

After the second high-profile student-coach relationship in five months was brought to light, the UT System Board of Regents announced it will begin a concentrated effort to review all policies concerning relationships between UT employees and students.

In a statement released Sunday by board chairman Gene Powell and UT System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa, the pair reasserted their commitment to the safety of UT students and said the board would reach out to national experts in their review of policies regarding employee-student relationships. Paul Foster, board vice chairman, will lead the efforts to study the relationship policies at all 15 UT System institutions. 

“Our chief concern is and always will be the safety and welfare of the students at our 15 institutions,” Powell and Cigarroa said in the statement. “The No. 1 priority of all UT administrative leaders, faculty, staff and athletic personnel should be protecting our students and ensuring that their experience at any UT institution is a positive and safe one.”

Current System policy, which went into effect November 2012, categorizes allegations of sexual misconduct as “significant events” that must be reported to the system “in a timely fashion.” According to the statement, the rule will be reviewed for possible strengthening. 

The regents met via telephone conference during a specially-scheduled meeting earlier Sunday to discuss legal issues related to individual athletics personnel and issues related to relationships between employees and students, generally. The last time the board scheduled a meeting on a Sunday was Aug. 17, 1958. 

On Friday, Major Applewhite, offensive coordinator for the football team, and DeLoss Dodds, men’s head athletics director, released separate statements regarding a previously undisclosed incident of “inappropriate, consensual behavior” that occurred between Applewhite and an adult student during the 2009 Fiesta Bowl events. 

Applewhite’s salary was suspended for the duration of the calendar year, and he was ordered to schedule a session with a licensed professional counselor.

In January, former women’s track and field head coach Bev Kearney resigned, several months after admitting to an “intimate consensual relationship” with a student-athlete in the track and field program. 

When Kearney admitted to the relationship in October, the University placed her on administrative leave before notifying her in January that it was prepared to begin the termination process. It was at this point that she resigned.

According to a policy in the University’s Handbook of Operating Procedures, instituted by UT in 2001, all relationships must be disclosed to appropriate members of the University. 

“The University strongly discourages consensual relationships between supervisors and subordinates, teachers and students and advisers and students,” the policy states. A failure to report the relationship will result in “disciplinary action, up to and including termination.”

Kearney’s attorney, Derek Howard, said the University’s justification for firing Kearney did not reference this specific policy. 

“[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.”

Howard declined to comment after the board’s meeting Sunday.

Kearney was the first African-American to serve as a head coach at UT and the first African-American coach to win an NCAA national team championship in Division I track and field. Under her coaching, the Longhorns won six national championships and earned 14 straight top-10 finishes at the NCAA Outdoor Championships between 1994 and 2007.

Published on February 4, 2013 as "Guidelines between staff and students to be reviewed".