Texas regents mull coaches' conduct with students
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- University of Texas regents Sunday ordered a review of policies regarding inappropriate relationships between employees and students after a two-hour, private telephone meeting to discuss incidents involving assistant football coach Major Applewhite and former women's head track coach Bev Kearney.
The call between the regents, their legal staff and Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa was scheduled after the disclosure Friday that 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. The regents did not order any further discipline against him after Sunday's meeting.
The revelation about Applewhite's conduct almost a month after Kearney resigned while under investigation for a 2002 relationship with an athlete in her program. Texas officials have said they were in the process of firing her.
"As leaders of the University of Texas System, our chief concern is and always will be the safety and welfare of the students on our 15 campuses," regents Chairman Gene Powell and Cigarroa said in a joint statement.
"The No. 1 priority of all UT administration 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," the statement said. Regents Vice Chairman Paul Foster would lead the policy review.
In both cases, the university has said the relationships between the coaches and students were consensual. But Kearney's lawyer, Derek Howard, has suggested the track coach was treated unfairly and may sue the university. Howard did not immediately respond to an email message.
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."
A public records request by the Daily Texan student newspaper revealed a disciplinary letter to Applewhite from athletic director DeLoss Dodds. Applewhite, a former Texas quarterback who was the Longhorns' running backs coach in his first season on staff, was ordered to undergo counseling. His salary was frozen for a year.
Dodds' letter warned Applewhite that any more such actions by him could result in more serious punishment. Applewhite has since been promoted to co-offensive coordinator and will call plays for Texas next season.
In a statement Friday night, Applewhite, who is married and one of the most popular assistants on Mack Brown's staff, said he was embarrassed by his conduct at the bowl game.
"It was a one-time occurrence and was a personal matter," Applewhite said. "Shortly after it occurred, I discussed the situation with DeLoss Dodds. I was upfront and took full responsibility for my actions. This is and was resolved by the university four years ago. Through counseling, I have worked with my wife and the incident is behind us."
Dodds said the university's legal office looked in the matter at the time and said Applewhite had been given appropriate punishment.
Joe Jamail, a Houston attorney and prominent supporter of the athletic program who is advising Applewhite, did not immediately return a phone message.