University of Texas head men's basketball coach Chris Beard was fired Thursday, less than one month after the school suspended him without pay following his arrest on a domestic family violence charge.
As reported by ESPN, Beard was in the second season of a fully guaranteed, seven-year contract. His contract includes a provision under which he can be fired for cause for conduct that includes being charged with a felony. He went 22-12 in his lone full season with the Longhorns, and was off to a 7-1 start this season at the time of his arrest and suspension.
Beard was arrested Dec. 12 after his fiancée, Randi Trew, told police he choked her from behind, bit her and hit her when the two got in an argument. Eleven days later, Trew released a statement in which she denied telling police Beard choked her.
"Chris did not strangle me, and I told that to law enforcement that evening," Trew said in her statement, as reported by ESPN. "Chris has stated that he was acting in self-defense, and I do not refute that. I do not believe Chris was trying to intentionally harm me in any way."
Nonetheless, the university deemed Beard's behavior unacceptable.
UT's vice president of legal affairs, Jim Davis, wrote in a letter to Beard's attorney, Perry Minton, that Beard engaged in "unacceptable behavior that makes him unfit to serve as head coach at our university." Whether prosecutors continue with the case does not determine whether Beard engaged in conduct unbecoming of the school, Davis wrote, as reported by ESPN.
Athletic director Chris Del Conte released the following statement Thursday:
"The University of Texas has parted ways with Chris Beard. This has been a difficult situation that we've been diligently working through. Today I informed Mr. Beard of our decision to terminate him effective immediately.
"We thank Coach Rodney Terry for his exemplary leadership both on and off the court at a time when our team needed it most. We are grateful he will remain the acting head coach for the remainder of the season.
"We are proud of our student-athletes, coaches and staff, who throughout this difficult time have continued to make us proud to be Longhorns."
Minton feels Texas has made a mistake.
"I am concerned that the University of Texas has made a terrible decision against the interest of the University, based on Twitter feeds and editorials — and not the facts concerning a truly innocent man," he said in a statement. "The University has violated their agreement with the coach and we are devastated.
"Coach Beard has not done anything to violate any provision of his contract with the University of Texas,'' Minton wrote, adding he expects the charges to be dropped.
The Travis County District Attorney's office released a statement to ESPN's Myron Medcalf on Thursday morning, hours before Beard was fired.
"The matter is still under review, and our prosecutors are evaluating all of the evidence, including recent statements and all evidence collected by law enforcement," the statement said. "Our office takes all allegations of domestic violence seriously; in each case, we are committed to working through the unique challenges presented."