Then There's This: Sex on Campus

In lawsuit, Kearney claims other coaches, profs have affairs with students

Then There's This: Sex on Campus
Courtesy of Creative Commons

Anyone who follows the trials and triumphs of UT Athletics knows by now that former UT women's track coach Beverly Kearney has made good on her intent to sue the university on charges of racial and gender discrimination.

If there are any surprises in the 12-page petition, it's that university officials may have unintentionally opened a Pandora's box of campus-wide tawdriness and intrigue when they forced Kearney, who is African-American, to resign because of a consensual relationship she had with an adult student athlete in 2002.

The lawsuit, filed Nov. 14 in Travis County district court, makes a wide range of allegations, but one section in particular paints a tell-all tale of unnamed, ranking UT employees engaging in short-term, long-term, or, in some cases, everlasting relationships with former students or subordinates.

Such liaisons are not unique to college campuses, but it appears that UT picked the wrong black woman to fire for engaging in this type of conduct. Kearney is not going down without exposing what her legal team asserts is a "good ol' boy system" that either ignores other employees' indiscretions, or disciplines them with a wrist slap.

Perhaps UT administrators and their legal advisors believed the university would avert any further pubic relations disasters when, less than a month after Kearney's Jan. 5 resignation, Athletics Director DeLoss Dodds disclosed that offensive coordinator Major Applewhite had been disciplined four years earlier for an affair he had with a student trainer during the 2009 Fiesta Bowl activities. Applewhite was ordered to seek counseling, and his pay was temporarily frozen. According to a press release that accompanied the Kearney lawsuit, Applewhite went on to receive raises and a promotion. In 2012, his salary stood at $575,000.

Casting a Wide Net

Kearney's lawsuit alleges that in addition to Apple­white, other university employees – all white males – have had affairs with students or subordinates without being subjected to termination or "any meaningful disciplinary actions." The suit alleges that coaches, current and former law school professors and undergrad professors, as well as a department chairperson, have had dalliances with students or subordinates. Moreover, the suit points to a "high level administrator" within the athletics department who "has carried on a prolonged intimate relationship of approximately three years with a subordinate employee with whom he has direct involvement in setting her pay."

Attorneys Derek Howard of Austin and Jody Mask of McAllen, who declined commenting beyond what they wrote in a press statement, also allege that the university cites a nonexistent policy that holds head coaches to a higher standard than other employees who have engaged in consensual relationships with students.

Indeed, a statement issued after Kearney's resignation by Patti Ohlen­dorf, UT's vice president for legal affairs, does suggest that the former coach was held to a different standard than others. "The University determined that it no longer was appropriate for Coach Kearney to serve as head coach or to work directly with our student-athletes and was prepared to begin the termination process," the statement reads. "The University told Coach Kearney that we cannot condone such an intimate relationship, including one that is consensual, between a head coach and a student-athlete. We told Coach Kearney such a relationship 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."

Of course, anyone can file a lawsuit and claim any number of allegations. These may or may not bear fruit, or render any financial damages for Kearney, but the discovery and depositions, nonetheless, should be interesting.

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Beverly Kearney, University of Texas, Athletics Department, lawsuit, Major Applewhite, DeLoss Dodds

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