Ole Miss’ hire of former Texas head coach Chris Beard sends concerning message


Assad Malik

Texas head basketball coach Chris Beard leaves the court for halftime during a game against UTRGV on Dec. 3, 2021.

Mantra Dave, Managing Editor

Why does Ole Miss think Chris Beard is fit to be its head coach when Texas fired him with cause less than three months ago? 

The University of Mississippi announced Monday that the former Texas head coach has been appointed head coach of the Rebels.

The obvious news that has materially changed between Beard’s Jan. 5 firing and the present is that, on Feb. 15, the Travis County District Attorney announced that all charges against Beard would be dropped due to insufficient evidence and testimony. However, clearance from legal repercussions does not mean that Beard is immediately fit to return to the sidelines. 

“It is his actual behavior that we consider, not whether some acts also constitute a crime,” James Davis, UT vice president for legal affairs, said in a statement released after Beard’s removal from Texas. “Our evaluation of Mr. Beard’s fitness for service is not contingent on whether he is also convicted of a particular crime or whether those charges are dismissed at some point.”

Holding the position of head coach at the University of Mississippi — the state’s flagship institution — is a privilege, not a right. 

Ole Miss is hiring Beard for the same reason that Texas poached him from Texas Tech: He’s one of the best basketball minds in the game today. Beard led the Red Raiders to a national championship game in 2019 and had the Longhorns within the AP Top 10 at the time of his suspension. 

Kermit Davis, former Ole Miss head coach, was fired after five disappointing seasons, which included four consecutive seasons of missing the NCAA tournament. Beard, as he has displayed during his time at Little Rock, Texas Tech and Texas, has the coaching chops to take the Rebels from relative obscurity on the hardwood to the top of the SEC. 

But coaching is about far more than X’s and O’s — it involves leading, mentoring and guiding a group of highly impressionable young men who have been suddenly thrust into the spotlight as college athletes. A head coach is accountable for the behavior of his players. How can Beard credibly assert any moral authority over his team when such a cloud from the recent past lingers over him?

Even from a basketball operations perspective, there are serious concerns. Any on-the-court accomplishment that Beard’s Rebels achieve is going to be followed with an asterisk about the head coach’s history. Other coaches, when recruiting against Beard, will be sure to bring up his personal history behind closed doors. Parents and recruits alike that would otherwise have considered Mississippi will go elsewhere because of the man leading the program. When Ole Miss goes on the road, opposing student sections will have a variety of crude, direct and distasteful signs and chants about Beard. As early as 2024-25, Texas and Ole Miss will play annually in the SEC, which will predictably bring the incidents that led to Beard’s firing to the fore again and again.

This does not mean that Beard should never be a head coach again or be barred from his profession. But less than four months after Beard was charged with third-degree felony family violence, there has been no public disclosure of any steps taken by the former Texas coach that typically constitute a return to public life after such an incident.

“Being a head coach at the University of Texas is about more than winning games,” James Davis said in response to Beard’s lawyer. 

With this hire, Ole Miss is saying, in no uncertain terms, that being a head coach at the University of Mississippi is just about winning games.