Court rules former coach's lawsuit against Texas can proceed

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) A race and gender discrimination lawsuit filed against the University of Texas by former women's track coach Bev Kearney can proceed, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday.

Kearney resigned under pressure of being fired in January 2013 after school officials confronted her about a relationship with one of her athletes a decade earlier.

Kearney sued, arguing that as a black woman she was held to a tougher standard than a white male coach. Shortly after Kearney resigned, Texas revealed that former assistant football coach Major Applewhite was reprimanded, but not fired, for a relationship with a female student trainer on a 2009 bowl trip.

Applewhite was later promoted and given pay raises. He stayed on the Texas staff until head coach Mack Brown was forced out after the 2013 season. Applewhite is now the offensive coordinator at the University of Houston.

Texas officials had asked the Third Court of Appeals in Austin to dismiss Kearney's lawsuit. The three-judge panel agreed to toss out her claims that she was fired in retaliation for complaining of alleged abusive behavior by colleagues and administrators, but allowed the discrimination claims to proceed.

Kearney is seeking damages of at least $1 million. Tuesday's ruling allows Kearney's lawyers to resume depositions and gathering school records, which had been on hold for more than a year pending the court decision.

''Finally we will have our day in court to allow Bev the opportunity to show exactly how different UT treated (her) than they treated others who had relationships with students,'' said Kearney's attorney, Derek Howard.

Patti Ohlendorf, Texas vice president of legal affairs, said the school was pleased the court dismissed the retaliation claim. The university ''continues to believe that all actions we took were lawful and appropriate,'' Ohlendorf said.

Kearney was one of the most successful coaches in Texas athletic history when she was forced out, with six national championships in 20 years with the Longhorns. She is a member of the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame and the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame.

Kearney's personnel file was full of excellent performance reviews and she was up for a raise shortly before the relationship with the former athlete was discovered.

Despite that history, school officials have said Kearney's relationship with one of her runners could not be condoned because it violated the trust between coaches and athletes.

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