Valley attorney represents former UT Austin coach in $1 million lawsuit

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POSTED: Thursday, November 21, 2013 - 5:47pm

UPDATED: Friday, November 22, 2013 - 11:43am

Bev Kearney was the first and only African American head coach at the University of Texas at Austin--but after being fired by Texas last December for having a relationship with a student athlete, the former women's track coach is suing the university for $1 million alleging discrimination against her race and gender.

Kearney resigned from her position on January 5, 2013 and claims that other university staff also engaged in inappropriate relationships, but they were allowed to keep their jobs.

Kearney's attorney, Jody Mask, is based in McAllen and says that his client was wrongly terminated from the university.

“We believe that we have significant evidence that shows that white males get a different set of playing rules at the University of Texas within the athletics department and outside of the athletic department, and so that’s what the case is about is trying to level the playing field,” Mask explained.

When questioned by the university in October 2012, Kearney openly admitted to the relationship--which dates back to 2002--and was reportedly told by the women's athletic director, "if there are no other relationships, it should not be a problem."

Soon after, however, Kearney was fired for that relationship, a stark contrast to the discipline that current offensive coordinator Major Applewhite received for his alleged affair with a student trainer during the 2009 Fiesta Bowl.

“The university said ‘well, you’re being terminated for having a relationship’ and Major Applewhite got a pay freeze, in other words they didn’t raise or lower his salary for a year," said Mask.  "And that was the extent of his discipline.”

The 12-page lawsuit alleges that other university employees--all of whom are white males--have been involved in inappropriate relationships that were, as the lawsuit states, "quietly disregarded and swept under the rug."

The university's Vice President for Legal Affairs, Patti Ohlendorf, issued the following statement regarding Kearney's lawsuit:

'When the university reviews inappropriate behavior by its employees, each case is evaluated on its individual facts.  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.'
 

No court date has been determined at this time.  Kearney's attorney said the lawsuit is not limited to $1 million and could potentially exceed that amount.

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