In complaint, Bev Kearney alleges being singled out, treated differently

Shabab Siddiqui

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.