AUSTIN (CN) - The University of Texas at Austin fired its women's track coach for dating a student, though the football team's offensive coordinator was not fired for similar behavior, the Hall of Fame track coach claims in court.
Beverly Kearney sued UT-Austin in Travis County Court.
Kearney was the first, and only, African-American head coach in any sport in the school's history. Her teams won six NCAA national championships, she won five NCAA Coach of the Year awards, and was inducted into the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame in 2004, according the complaint.
Kearney claims she was discriminated against for being black and female during 21 years at the school. She says she was "unceremoniously fired three days after Christmas in 2012," shortly after the school learned of her relationship with a former student in 2002.
"(O)ther university employees (all of whom are white males) have been involved in relationships with students or direct subordinates and have not been subjected to termination, let alone any meaningful disciplinary actions," the complaint states. "These university employees include Major Applewhite (current co-offensive coordinator for the football team), other coaches within the university's athletic department, current and former law school professors, current and former professors within the university's undergraduate school, and a department chairperson." Kearney claims UT-Austin employed the current University of Oregon head volleyball coach Jim Moore for three years though he married a former-student athlete.
She also claims an unidentified high-level athletic department administrator had a long, intimate relationship with a subordinate employee and had direct influence over her pay.
"These relationships between a professor, coach, or administrator and a student, student, student-athlete, or subordinate employee, are believed to be well-known by the university administration and quietly disregarded and swept under the rug," the complaint states. "However, without citing any specific written policy, the university has singled out Ms. Kearney, an African-American female, and regarded her as different based on a nearly 10-year-old relationship."
Kearney claims the university has no written policy that bans head coaches from dating student-athletes they are coaching, only that there is an unwritten "higher standard" policy for head coaches to refrain from such behavior, as opposed to assistant coaches, professors or administrators.
She claims the school "turned a blind eye" men who are not black who are in consensual relationships with students.
Kearney also accuses former men's track and field head coach Bubba Thornton - a white man - of criticizing her professionalism, character and coaching ability since his arrival at the school in 1994.
"She was repeatedly demeaned in front of others, including the athletes, and falsely accused of various NCAA violations," the complaint states. "Further, Ms. Kearney was subjected to repeated internal investigations (all of which were ultimately dropped) over an almost 15-year period." (Parentheses in complaint.)
Kearney says she complained about the treatment as early as 2004 but the university did nothing to stop the harassment.
UT-Austin's athletic department did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Kearney seeks declaratory judgment, an injunction and damages for labor and human rights violations.
She is represented by Jody Mask with Garcia Karam in McAllen.
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