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UT planning pay raise for track coach Kearney before suspension

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) -- University of Texas officials were planning a pay raise for women's track coach Beverly Kearney before she was abruptly suspended.

According to documents released by the school Friday, women's athletic director Chris Plonsky wrote president Bill Powers on Sept. 24 requesting the raise and calling Kearney a key mentor and leader.

A month later, school officials ordered the contract removed from the agenda for an upcoming regents meeting. Plonsky suspended Kearney with pay on Nov. 11 to investigate issues within the program that the school has not disclosed. Kearney has not responded to attempts to contact her at her home for comment.

The documents in Kearney's personnel file were released to The Associated Press under a public records request. The file includes several glowing job reviews signed by Plonsky.

Kearney has been at Texas 21 years and has won six national titles. Her current contract includes a base salary of about $270,000 plus incentives for winning championships, as well as bonuses for endorsements and her work conducting the school's annual minority athlete symposium.

The contract changes school officials were considering would have paid her $397,000 in 2012-2013, plus a $25,000 longevity bonus. Kearney's compensation would be up to $475,000 in minimum salary plus bonuses by 2017.

"This is a significant package and will place Beverly among the top three compensated track coaches in the nation," Plonsky wrote to Powers, noting that Kearney's teams rank among the best on campus in graduation rate. "I believe Beverly should be among the highest paid Olympic sports coaches in the nation."

Emails between University of Texas officials show the contract was supposed to be placed on the consent agenda for the regents' November meeting. But on Oct. 16, Patti Ohlendorf, Texas vice president for legal affairs, told Powers' staff to "pull it back. We may need to make some changes."

By Oct. 22, an email from Powers' staff to Ohlendorf said Plonsky had said in a telephone call there was still "some research to do" before submitting the contract.

None of the emails detail what changes or research had to be done or indicate a specific problem with Kearney or her track program.

Texas announced Kearney's suspension on Nov. 12, disclosing no details of what officials are investigating.

Although Kearney has been employed at Texas since 1993, the personnel file released by the school included only 29 pages and no performance reviews prior to the 2006-2007 academic year.

In Kearney's 2010-2011 evaluation, the most recent available, Plonsky gave Kearney a near-perfect review, rating Kearney "Outstanding" and called her "a gift to UT."

The personnel file included a 2000 letter reprimanding Kearney for making improper phone calls to a recruit, an NCAA violation.

Texas also released 36 pages of correspondence between the school and the NCAA about the women's track program. It included a self-imposed penalty for a secondary NCAA violation over text messages sent from an assistant coach to a recruit in the fall of 2011.

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