Texas Needs to Get a Handle on Its Inappropriate Relationships

Lisa Horne@LisaHornePac-12 and Big 12 Lead WriterFebruary 4, 2013

Nov 24, 2011; College Station, TX, USA; Texas Longhorns offensive coordinator Major Applewhite during the second half against the Texas A&M Aggies at Kyle Field. Texas won 27-25. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-US Presswire
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

I'm not going to get into the specifics of the indiscretions by both Texas offensive coordinator Major Applewhite and former Texas Track (women's) coach Bev Kearney while they were employed by the University of Texas.

The two of them reportedly engaged in inappropriate conduct with two separate students while they were both employed by the school. This is a private matter between the two and their respective partners, and the personal side of it is none of our business.

The legal side of it, however, is very interesting because what these two coaches did was not a school violation.

According to the University of Texas' Office of the Dean of Students, the "university strongly discourages consensual relationships between supervisors and subordinates, teachers and students, and advisors and students. Should such a relationship develop, the teacher, supervisor or advisor has the obligation to disclose its existence to an immediate supervisor and cooperate in making alternative arrangements for the supervision, evaluation, teaching, grading or advising of the employee, student and/or student employee."

The school's complete policy is here but make no mistake: Nowhere does the school policy prohibit such relationships. 

Yet one coach is still employed with the school, while the other is not.

According to this Sports Illustrated report, the alleged affairs were consensual. Okay, fine but if one of the affair's participants was on a team that either Applewhite or Kearney coached, "consensual" is a little harder to define.

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Just because a student says "yes" to a coach doesn't necessarily mean it was completely voluntary—coaches still have a supervisory position over the student-athlete, and thus quid pro quo may not have existed.

Both coaches have not identified the involved students, so we're not even sure if the students were being supervised by either Applewhite or Kearney at the time of the reported incidents. The lawyers will resolve all of that and honestly, it's not for public consumption.

What Texas needs to address right now is why was the school reportedly in the "process of firing her" when Kearney resigned on January 5? Why was this a fire-able offense when it allegedly wasn't a school violation? And why wasn't Applewhite given the same cattle prod as Kearney?

According to the Sports Illustrated report, the school's board of regents, their legal staff and Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa had a telephone meeting on Sunday after it was disclosed that on Friday, "Applewhite, the Longhorns' offensive coordinator, had been disciplined by the school in 2009 for his conduct with a student during a trip to the Fiesta Bowl. Applewhite was ordered at the time to undergo counseling and his pay was frozen for a year."

Why would a school have an emergency meeting over this? One could surmise that Kearney is filing a lawsuit against the school—she might have a case. More from Sports Illustrated:

Kearney, who won six national championships since 1993, was in line for a large pay increase until the former athlete reported their relationship in October. Kearney was placed on paid leave in November and resigned Jan. 5.

When Kearney resigned, school officials said it didn't appear Kearney had engaged in any other inappropriate behavior with students, but that the relationship with the athlete "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."

Was she forced to resign? Technically, Bobby Bowden and Monte Kiffin both resigned, but we all have a pretty good idea of how that all went down. But Kearney was reportedly in the process of being fired, so you have to think there was some pressure for her to resign.

In fact, according to her attorney, there was pressure. According to a January WTSP report:

The paper said her attorney, Derek A. Howard, issued a statement, which said in part: "We believe that Ms. Kearney has been subjected to a double standard and has received far harsher punishment than that being given to her male counterparts who have engaged in similar conduct. ... It is a shame that this remarkably talented female African-American coach, who has devoted her life to helping others, is being bullied and scapegoated by the University of Texas. 

Howard said Sunday that Kearney was given until Monday at noon to resign or she would be fired.

What about Applewhite's situation? At the time of his inappropriate conduct, he was a running backs coach, but since his 2009 Fiesta Bowl indiscretion, he has been promoted to offensive coordinator. Sound fair?

Texas, this stinks to high heaven. An African-American coach is allegedly forced to resign over an affair that ended over eight years ago, but a white male football coach gets a promotion and pay raise after his dalliance three years ago?

Not a good look, Texas. Not a good look.