University of Texas Coach's Affair Exposed to Block Her Raise, Lawyer Suggests

PHOTO: Texas womens coach Bev Kearney celebrates with her team after the Longhorns won the team title in the NCAA Track & Field Championships at Sacramento States Hornet Stadium in Sacramento, Calif. on June 11, 2005.
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The attorney representing a University of Texas track coach who abruptly quit over a 2003 affair with an adult student suggested today that the former lover was prompted to come forward to prevent the coach from receiving a raise and extended contract.

Bev Kearney, who has worked with the women's track and field team at the University of Texas at Austin since 1993, told ABCNews.com today that she was "shocked" when the affair with the female student was revealed.

She was placed on leave in November, but she abruptly quit on Saturday after admitting she had a consensual affair with an adult who was a student athlete between 2002 and 2003.

"Right now I'm in complete survival mode," Kearney, 55, told ABCNews.com. She said that she has no immediate plans for her career.

Derek A. Howard, Kearney's attorney, said that he believes the timing of the disclosure by the now 30-year-old former lover is suspicious. The former student has not been identified.

"Bev had been offered a substantial $150,000 per year raise, to a five- year contract," Howard said. "That was in the works, and I think it's fair to say that this woman was put up to it by some other person, for the reason that the individual who put her up to it was resentful that Bev was being offered this."

"We can't say what evidence there is of that. But we can say it seems remarkable, let's say coincidental, the exact timing this report came out of the blue [was] when the athletic council was recommending that Bev be promoted, and offered a raise," he said.

Kearney's tenure at the university began in 1993. In the past 20 years, the Lady Longhorns have won six NCAA track championships.

University spokesman Nick Voinis did not direct address Howard's suggestion, but repeated the school's statement that as head coach, Kearney was "responsible for assuring the best interests of the student-athletes that he or she coaches," and that it "is unprofessional and unacceptable for a head coach to carry on an intimate relationship with a student-athlete that he or she is coaching."

"The university told Coach Kearney and Mr. Howard that we were prepared to begin the termination process. She chose to resign instead," Voinis said in a statement.

Over the weekend, Patti Ohlendorf, UT's vice president for legal affairs, said in a statement that it had begun to review this relationship in late October after the former student-athlete reported her prior relationship with Kearney.

The university said that it is believed that Kearney did not have other similar relationships with student-athletes while coaching at the school.

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

Howard points out that the University of Texas does not have a rule that prohibits relationships between students and professors or coaches, but that the school states that the relationship must be reported.

"The rule she was fired for was not having the relationship, but failing to report. Ten years ago when this relationship started, that rule was brand new," he said. "We think there will be evidence that men who do this are not treated the same as this woman has been treated. That's gender and racial bias if white males engaged in same behavior." Kearney is black.

Voinis told ABCNews.com, "The policy Mr. Howard mentioned to you is not the controlling factor in this case."

UT's student handbook indicated that -- in a policy applies to all faculty, staff and students of the university -- the teacher, supervisor or adviser has the obligation to disclose its existence to an immediate supervisor.

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