The University of Texas has agreed to pay $600,000 to settle a race and gender discrimination lawsuit filed by Bev Kearney after she was forced out as women’s track coach in 2013, according to a copy of the settlement obtained Monday by the American-Statesman through an open records request.
Kearney, who is black, had argued that her punishment was unfairly harsher than that imposed on Major Applewhite, a white former assistant football coach, who was ordered to undergo counseling after he had a brief consensual relationship with a student trainer on a bowl game trip following the 2008 season. He was later promoted and is now head coach at the University of Houston.
Kearney, only the second African-American head coach in UT history when she was hired in 1993, won six NCAA titles and national coach of the year honors five times. But after being recommended for a $150,000 raise in fall 2012, she was put on leave and then forced out in January 2013 after UT learned of an inappropriate long-term relationship she had with one of her athletes a decade earlier.
John Mask, a lawyer for Kearney, and UT spokesman Gary Susswein had confirmed in June that a settlement was in the offing, but they provided no details. Mask said last year that Kearney was claiming damages approaching $4 million, including the value of a new contract that had yet to be signed.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Kearney gets $277,452.10 and the Jody R. Mask PLLC law firm gets $322,547.90.
The lawsuit stalled for years as UT sought to quash it, but the Texas Supreme Court allowed it to proceed in 2017. That led to depositions by former UT President Bill Powers, former athletic director DeLoss Dodds, former football coach Mack Brown and university officials who investigate allegations of sexual misconduct. The depositions remain sealed under a court order.
UT had long refused to settle, perhaps reflecting the view of Patti Ohlendorf, the school’s vice president for legal affairs, who called Kearney’s allegations “unfounded” and her relationship with the athlete “a serious lack of judgment.” In 2016, Ohlendorf told the American-Statesman that “UT-Austin continues to believe that all actions we took were lawful and appropriate.”
The university spent more than $500,000 defending the case, according to financial records reviewed by the Associated Press.
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