track and field coach

Texas Men's Track and Field head coach Bubba Thornton to retire

Texas Men's Track and Field head coach Bubba Thornton announced his intent to retire at the end of the summer on Monday afternoon. His retirement will go into effect on August 31. Thornton just finished his 18th year as head coach at Texas and 32nd year as a head track and field coach.

This past season, Thornton lead the Longhorns to Big 12 Indoor and Outdoor Titles and concluded with a sixth place NCAA Outdoor Championships finish. During his career, Thornton amassed 12 conference championships and 19 NCAA Top 10 finishes. Thornton was also named the Head Coach of Team USA's 2008 Olympic Men's team. 

With the departure, the Texas Athletic Department will combine the women's and men's programs at Texas into one program. 

"My decision to retire this year was made easier by the work this staff and team have put in," Thornton commented. "They have a tremendous foundation for great success next year...I'm as proud of this team as any that I have coached." 

Bev Kearney, former women’s track and field coach, is alleging she was “singled out and treated differently” than her male, non-African American counterparts, according to her filed complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission.

“I believe that I was subjected to a severely hostile work environment and constructively discharged by forcing me to resign in lieu of being fired because of my race, color and gender,” Kearney said in the complaint.

In her complaint, Kearney alleges she was publicly demeaned and falsely accused of NCAA violations by Bubba Thornton, men’s track and field head coach; she was harassed and her complaints were ignored by administrators; she was not given salary raises granted to other coaches; and she was told she was being fired for violating an “unwritten” policy, despite colleagues not receiving the same treatment for similar acts.

Kearney’s attorney, Derek Howard, said he filed the complaint March 12 with the “Civil Rights and Discrimination Division” of the Texas Workforce Commission. The commission has 180 days to investigate the complaint after which Kearney has a right to sue. 

“Coach Kearney’s allegations of discrimination will be reviewed thoroughly and responded to according to [the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission] and Texas Workforce Commission procedures,” said Patricia Ohlendorf, the University’s Vice President for Legal Affairs, in a statement last week.

Kearney resigned in January after being told the University was prepared to fire her for a having a consensual relationship with a former student-athlete in 2002. In the complaint, she cites the University’s handling of an incident concerning football offensive coordinator Major Applewhite as a “glaring example” of differing treatment. Applewhite engaged in “inappropriate, consensual behavior with an adult student” in 2009. Applewhite’s salary was suspended for a year following the incident, but he has since received promotions and raises.

The complaint also levies several allegations of harassment by Thornton, who she alleges would speak negatively about her character, professionalism and coaching abilities to others in the athletic department. She said while several administrators including head athletic directors DeLoss Dodds and Chris Plonsky acknowledged the harassment, they did nothing to stop it.

A pair of 2004 letters sent from Kearney to Dodds highlights a longstanding friction between Kearney and Thornton. In the letters, obtained by The Daily Texan through the Texas Public Information Act, Kearney alleges Thornton offered her job to a coach at another university and would speak openly about becoming head coach of both men’s and women’s track and field programs.

The complaint is filed against the entire University, not just the athletic department. In 2011, a former UT employee, Glyn Rogers, filed a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission alleging racial and retaliatory discrimination specifically against the athletic department, according to documents obtained by the Texan through the Texas Public Information Act. UT spokesman Gary Susswein  said the case was dismissed by the Texas Workforce Commission and no lawsuits were filed.

Additional reporting by Hannah Jane DeCiutiis

Published on March 25, 2013 as "Kearney files to sue University". 

This article was edited for accuracy after its original posting. Kearney will be allowed to sue after 180 days have elapsed from the time of the filing regardless of the results of an investigation.

A pair of letters obtained by The Daily Texan highlight an enduring friction between Bev Kearney, the former women’s track and field coach who resigned in January, and Bubba Thornton, men’s track and field coach.

The letters, from Kearney to DeLoss Dodds, men’s athletics director, in 2004 were obtained by the Texan through the Texas Public Information Act.

In a May 4, 2004, letter to Dodds, Kearney filed several complaints against Thornton: that he had spread negative comments about her to her players and peers, that he publicly disrespected her at the Texas Relays and that he was angling to be the director of both the men’s and women’s programs.

“Recently I feel my character, my professionalism and my integrity has been defamed and slandered by Coach Bubba Thornton,” Kearney said in the letter. “Bubba has not only brought into question my coaching capabilities but more importantly his actions against me have begun to effect [sic] my reputation.”

A week later, Kearney sent a follow-up memo to Dodds and Chris Plonsky, women’s athletics director. Kearney again addressed Thornton’s desire to be the track director, claiming that Thornton had offered Kearney’s job to an unnamed track coach at another major university. The coach then informed Kearney.

“I was informed from the [coach] that Bubba has indeed offered my job to the current head track coach of this other university as he is anticipating taking over both of our programs,” Kearney said in the May 11 memo.

“As I am sure you can understand, I also feel that I have been put in a very awkward and overwhelmingly precarious position,” Kearney continued in the memo. “In addition, I do not want to jeopardize my relationship with you. I am sure you would agree that being forthcoming about what I have learned is the only thing I can do.”

Kearney declined to comment for this story through her attorney. Thornton did not return multiple requests for comment.

In an interview Thursday, Dodds said the relationship between Kearney and Thornton was “fine.” When shown the letters, Dodds said he could not remember them.

”Overall, I would say their relationship was OK,” Dodds said. “[Those letters] must have been before last week. I can’t remember that long ago.” 

Nick Voinis, senior associate athletics director, who was present for the interview in Dodds’ office, said he was aware of correspondence from Kearney regarding Thornton.

“I heard there may have been a memo or two there,” Voinis said. 

After she was told the University was prepared to fire her for having a relationship with a former student-athlete in her program in 2002, Kearney, the head coach since 1993, resigned in January. She led the Longhorns to six national championships — three indoor and three outdoor — during her 20-year tenure. 

Thornton became the head of the men’s program in 1996 after a 13-year stint as head coach of his alma mater, Texas Christian University. He served as the head coach of the men’s track and field team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. 

Rose Brimmer, an assistant coach under Kearney, is the interim head coach of the women’s track and field program. Dodds said they are still in the process of deciding what to do about the position for the future.

Asked if the athletics department is considering combining the men’s and women’s programs with Thornton in charge, Dodds — a former track coach himself — said they are a few weeks from making that decision.

“It seems the world has pretty much gone to one head coach and assistant coaches,” Dodds said. “We’ve stayed with a two-coach system, but [putting Thornton in charge of both programs is] part of the discussion about what we need to do.”

— Reporting by Christian Corona, Shabab Siddiqui and Trey Scott

Beverly Kearney's complaints against Bubba Thornton

Beverly Kearney and Bubba Thornton Open Record Request

Published on February 22, 2013 as "Letters reveal Kearney's rift with coach". 

Texas women's track coach Bev Kearney stepping down

Texas head women's track and field coach Bev Kearney has resigned following an investigation of an "intimate consensual relationship" with "a student-athlete in her program," according to a statement released by UT vice president for legal affairs Patti Ohlendorf on Saturday.

"Coach Kearney is a good person and has been very important to the University," Ohlendorf said in the statement. "However, she made this terrible mistake and used unacceptably poor judgment in having this relationship."

Kearney was placed on paid administrative leave in November for then-undisclosed reasons and it was revealed in an Associated Press report that women's athletics director Chris Plonsky asked UT President William Powers Jr. to give her a pay raise before the investigation began.

According to the statement, the investigation showed that Kearney began this relationship with the student-athlete "about 10 1/2 years ago" and ended it "about eight years ago." When Kearney was told that the University was preparing to terminate her, she decided to resign.

"The University determined that it no longer was appropriate for Coach Kearney to serve as head coach to work directly with our student-athletes," Ohlendorf said in the statement. "We cannot condone such an intimate relationship, including one that is consensual, between a head coach and a student-athlete. We told Coach Kearney such a relationship is unprofessional and crosses the line of trust placed in the head coach for all aspects of the athletic program and the best interests of the student-athletes on the team."

Kearney's resignation was first reported by the Austin American-Statesman, who spoke with the former Longhorns track coach in an exclusive interview that took place in the office of Kearney's attorney, Derek A. Howard.

"You destroy yourself. You start questioning how could you make such a judgment," Kearney told the Statesman. "How could you make such an error after all the years? You can get consumed [by it] ... It's been a difficult challenge for me simply because I have to forgive myself for making an error. I didn't commit a crime, but I displayed poor judgment."

Kearney had been the head women's track and field coach since 1993, leading the Longhorns to six national championships  three indoor and three outdoor  during her 20-year tenure. She was named her conference's coach of the year 16 times and guided Texas to 14 straight top-10 finishes at the NCAA Outdoor Championships between 1994 and 2007, a previously unprecedented feat. Kearney was inducted into the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2007.

"It's a shame that this remarkably talented female African-American coach, who has devoted her life to helping others, is being bullied and scapegoated by the University of Texas," Howard told the Statesman in a statement. "We believe that Ms. Kearney has been subjected to a double standard and has received far harsher punishment than that being given to her male counter-parts who have engaged in similar conduct."

The identity of the former student-athlete that Kearney is said to have previously had an intimate relationship with was not revealed.

"As a public University, we are committed to transparency and disclosure," Ohlendorf said in the statement. "We also have a responsibility to our students to follow the strict federal laws that are designed to protect their privacy. The University will not identify the former student-athlete. We respect her privacy and appreciate her cooperation during our review."

Rose Brimmer, who has spent eight seasons as an assistant coach under Kearney, will take over as interim head women's track and field coach while Stephen Sisson, who has been an assistant women's track and field coach at Texas since 2006, will take on "expanded duties" in Kearney's absence.

Published on January 14, 2013 as "Questions remain after Kearney's resignation".

Beverly Kearney doesn’t like to talk about her induction into the National Track and Field Hall of Fame, her record seven national championships as women’s track and field coach or the fact that she has coached 12 Olympic runners, seven of whom are medalists.

Kearney would rather have a conversation about giving back and pouring into programs such as the annual Minority Mentorship Symposium she founded in 2007.

Now in its fifth year, the two-day symposium — which more than 1,000 students from UT and surrounding schools attended on Thursday — honored individuals such as John Harris, CEO of Nestle Waters; recording artist and producer Lana “MC Lyte” Moorer; and Cookie Johnson, CEO of Cookie Johnson Jeans and wife of Earvin “Magic” Johnson, among many others.

LeToya Luckett, a speaker at the symposium, told students about balancing a career as an actress, a singer and a boutique owner, while Twyla Garrett, CEO of six companies, shared her rags-to-riches story of growing up in poverty and rising to the top.

Kearney said the idea for a mentor program like the symposium came about early in her coaching career. She said she met many minority students who had never interacted with community members who held the professions they were striving for.

“They had never met anyone that looked like them doing what they wanted to do,” she said. “They had never met an African-American female CEO or a prominent Hispanic doctor.”

She said the lack of interaction hindered minority students from keeping focus when they hit hardships because they felt like they were treading “uncharted waters.”

Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, said he aspired to be to be an attorney when he was a child, but he had no model.

“When I was coming up, my role model was Perry Mason,” West said, speaking of the fictional television attorney. “I just didn’t have any other role model to look up to for that.”

UT students who attended the symposium will spend Friday volunteering at a youth rally for more than 1,300 middle and high school students ­— a process Kearney referred to as a “generational flow of success.”

“I don’t ever want them to forget that being here and being who they are is a blessing, and sometimes, you got to give back off of that blessing so you generate greater blessings for the future,” she said.

President William Powers Jr., said he is proud of Kearney’s accomplishments on and off the field and is inspired by her philanthropy.

“Nothing makes me more proud than the energy that you put into this event so that distinguished individuals can pass on their wisdom to the next generation,” Powers said.

Kearney’s philanthropic institution, Pursuit of Dreams Foundation, hosts symposiums for men and women of all ages, both locally and nationally. The Foundation works with companies to benefit cancer foundations and research centers, women’s and children’s shelters, and a dozen other nonprofit organizations.

“It’s always been my goal to give more than I receive, and I’ve failed at that because I’m blessed to have received so much,” Kearney said through tears. “But if you know me, you know I’m not a quitter, and I’m going to keep on giving.”