Former women’s track Bev Kearney and the University of Texas have agreed to settle a lawsuit that claimed the school discriminated against her because of her gender and race when it fired her more than five years ago.
Jody Mask, Kearney’s attorney, confirmed on Wednesday to the American-Statesman that the suit was nearing its end. “The parties have reached an agreement to settle this case,” he said.
The amount of the settlement wasn’t revealed. Mask said a year ago that the actual damages Kearney was asking for approached $4 million, which included the total value of a new contract that she was about to sign before she was fired in January 2013.
News of the settlement came nearly a year after the Texas Supreme Court allowed the case to move forward when it denied a petition for review filed by the school’s lawyers. The suit had been winding its way through the appeals process for four years. When the court sent it back to a state district court, discovery began again. Former UT President Bill Powers, former athletic director DeLoss Dodds and former football coach Mack Brown were among those who gave depositions.
Kearney was one of the most successful coaches in school history. She became only the second African-American head coach in UT history when she was hired in 1993. She led the women’s team to six NCAA indoor and outdoor titles, winning the first in 1998 and the final one in 2006. She won national coach of the year honors five times.
But after being recommended for a $150,000 raise in the fall of 2012, Kearney was put on leave, then terminated in January 2013. The firing was prompted when UT discovered that she had an inappropriate long-term relationship with one of her athletes a decade before.
If she’d finished out the school year in 2013, Kearney would have been the highest paid women’s track coach in the country.
Kearney filed a lawsuit in November 2013. Earlier that year, she had filed five-page complaints with the Texas Workforce Commission and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, stating that she’d experienced a “severely hostile work environment at Texas over the past decade.”
Her lawsuit alleged that UT showed a double standard by punishing Kearney for an inappropriate relationship while other employees who had been involved with students were not terminated. When the lawsuit initially was filed, Patti Ohlendorf, the school’s vice-president for legal affairs, called Kearney’s allegations “unfounded” and said that Kearney “displayed a serious lack of judgment” when she had a relationship with one of her athletes.
Kearney’s lawyers questioned why Major Applewhite, a former UT star quarterback, assistant coach and offensive coordinator, was not punished as severely when the school found out he’d had an affair with a student staffer on the football team during a trip for the 2009 Fiesta Bowl.
Applewhite had his base pay frozen for nearly 20 months as discipline for having a brief affair. However, he was eligible for supplemental pay and received $15,000 during the pay freeze. News of his punishment didn’t break for four years. It was only after the Daily Texan, the school’s student-run newspaper, filed an open records request for Applewhite’s personnel file that the school revealed details of why Applewhite was disciplined.
Applewhite also gave a deposition for the Kearney case. But all the depositions have been sealed.