Texas announced on Thursday that it had “separated” from Mario Sategna, the head coach of the track and field team.
Tonja Buford-Bailey will serve as Texas’ interim head coach, athletic director Chris Del Conte said. The rest of the staff will remain intact. Buford-Bailey will escort a handful of UT athletes to the USATF Indoor Championships this weekend, but most of the Longhorns are off until the Big 12 Indoor Championships from Feb. 23-24.
In 2016, Sategna took a personal leave of absence that lasted four months. During that time, it was reported that Sategna was the subject of an ethics and misconduct investigation. Buford-Bailey served as one of two co-head coaches during that absence.
“After discussing the future of our track and field program, I felt it was best to move forward and head in a new direction at this time,” Del Conte said in a statement. “Coach Buford-Bailey has a great deal of experience as a head coach and has been a valuable leader in our program for several years now. We have full confidence in her ability to lead our student-athletes and in assuming the duties of head coach immediately.”
No further explanation was given about Sategna’s departure. A university spokesperson said that Del Conte had no further comment at this time. Attempts by the American-Statesman to reach Sategna were unsuccessful.
Sategna, 45, had been UT’s head coach since Texas combined its men’s and women’s programs in 2013. From 2003-13, he served as the associate head coach for the men’s team. Sategna accompanied Texas to this past weekend’s Tyson Invitational in Fayetteville, Ark.
Thursday’s news came as a surprise. Just on Monday, the track program promoted a videotaped interview of Sategna on its Twitter account. In the since-deleted video, Sategna said his favorite part of coaching at Texas was “Just the opportunity to be a part of this chapter, to be a part of tradition, to be a part of history. I have to pinch myself every day when I wake up.”
Buford-Bailey, 47, has been an associate head coach at Texas since 2013, and she primarily oversaw the sprints, hurdles and relays. Before coming to Texas, Buford-Bailey was the head women’s coach at Illinois from 2008-13.
Buford-Bailey was a standout at Illinois who won the NCAA’s champion in the 400-meter hurdles in 1992. Buford-Bailey participated in three Olympics and was the bronze medalist in the 400-meter hurdles in 1996.
Buford-Bailey’s son, Victor, is a freshman basketball player at Oregon who starred at nearby McNeil High.