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Thu04242014

Sports

Timing & a coach’s demise

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The woman who had a romantic relationship with the head coach of the Texas women's track team 10 years ago reported the affair to the university about the same time the head coach was negotiating a significant raise and contract with the university, the coach's attorney said Monday.

Derek A. Howard suggested it was no coincidence that the now 30-year-old woman who was involved with coach Bev Kearney in 2002 came forward in October while Kearney was discussing a $150,000-a-year raise and a new 5-year deal.

"It's curious that someone from her very distant past would report this as she was being offered a substantial raise and contract extension," he said.

Howard said he was speculating, but thought it was likely that "others encouraged her to do this."

The university had no immediate comment when asked about Howard's suggestion.

Kearney, a Hall of Fame coach who led the Longhorns to six national titles, resigned Saturday after meeting with university officials about the affair.

Howard said that the affair began in August 2002, which is not long after the university put a policy into its handbook about consensual relationships. The relationship dissolved after Kearney was paralyzed in an SUV accident in December 2002, and the coach spent many months in recovery.

There was no bitter breakup, Howard said.

In an e-mail to CNN on Sunday, 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. We told Coach Kearney and Mr. Howard that such a relationship 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 in the program."

Told the university was going to fire her, Kearney – the first African-American to serve as a head coach at Texas – resigned.

Howard said Monday that he and Kearney are discussing her legal options, including a gender and race bias lawsuit. He planned to file open-records requests with the school this week, he said.

He claimed that male coaches and professors at the school had similar relationships and weren't punished.

Ohlendorf denied Sunday that gender played a role in the university's review and said she knows of no other "UT head coach who has entered into such a relationship with a student-athlete on his or her team."

A CNN story in August profiled the coach, who learned to walk again after she was injured in a December 26, 2002, accident that killed two of her friends.

Thrown more than 50 feet from an SUV, she suffered extensive spinal injuries that left her partially paralyzed.

Kearney said she never doubted her ability to walk again and continued to lead her team from her hospital bed.

"When they told me I was paralyzed, it went in one ear and out the next ... because I had to get up and coach," she said.

Track practices were recorded and then played for Kearney on a VCR in her hospital room.

"Because I was an intuitive coach ... whatever it is you need to do, I can describe it in a way that you internalize it and you feel it without me having to demonstrate it," she said in the August story.

She also started a foundation that connects young people with mentors.

"If I can expose you to the best ... it has a great chance of inspiring you to be the best," Kearney explained.

Kearney had been a head coach at Texas since 1993. She was inducted into the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2007.

Neither the university nor Kearney, who first told the Austin American-Statesman of her decision to step down, identified the athlete.

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