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UT fires basketball coach Chris Beard amid domestic violence charge

 Chris Beard, then coach of the Texas Tech men's basketball team, stands on the sidelines during a March Madness game in 2019.
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Chris Beard, then coach of the Texas Tech men's basketball team, stands on the sidelines during a March Madness game in 2019.

UT Austin has fired head basketball coach Chris Beard nearly a month after he was arrested on a domestic violence charge.

UT Vice President and Athletics Director Chris Del Conte informed Beard in a letter Thursday that he had been terminated. Del Conte said in the letter that Beard had violated his employment contract, adding “all obligations of the University to make further payment or provide any other consideration will cease as of January 5, 2023.”

Beard had been suspended without pay since his arrest on Dec. 12. According to a statement from the Austin Police Department, Beard's fiancée said she had been assaulted and strangled by the 49-year-old. Her attorney later said in a statement on her behalf to The Associated Press and the Austin American-Statesman that Beard may have acted in self-defense and did not strangle her.

Perry Minton, Beard’s attorney, described the university’s decision to fire Beard as a “shock.” UT had also given Beard the option to resign.

Minton argued in a letter to UT Vice President for Legal Affairs James Davis that Beard had not violated any provision of his contract. He said, for example, Beard had not done anything unbecoming a head coach or resulting in felony criminal charges.

The Travis County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement Wednesday that it was reviewing the case.

“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.”

Minton said in his letter that he did not expect the Travis County District Attorney to present the case to a grand jury, which would decide whether to issue a felony indictment.

“To be clear, as an officer of the court, I represent to the University of Texas that in my professional and well-informed opinion, no charges will ever be brought against Chris Beard,” he wrote.

Minton also said he thought university officials were planning to keep Beard, a UT graduate, at the school.

“I just do not understand the change of heart with no explanation and on such short notice, particularly in light of the University alignment and support that he is innocent,” he said.

In a response to Minton’s letter Thursday, Davis wrote that being a head coach for the Longhorns “is about more than winning games.” He said UT exercised restraint as more details came to light, but that Beard engaged in unacceptable behavior.

“It is his actual behavior that we consider, not whether some acts also constitute a crime,” Davis said. “Whether or not the District Attorney ultimately charges Mr. Beard is not determinative of whether he engaged in conduct unbecoming a head coach at our university.”

Davis also told Minton that his letter shows Beard fails to understand the significance of his behavior and its impact.

“This lack of self-awareness is yet another failure of judgment that makes Mr. Beard unfit to serve as a head coach at our university,” he said.

Davis did not elaborate further on Beard’s behavior.

UT hired Beard in April 2021, spending $4 million to buy out his contract from Texas Tech University. The contract initially was supposed to last seven years with him making about $5 million annually.

Texas Associate Head Coach Rodney Terry, who has been filling in for Beard, will continue as the interim head coach for the rest of the season. He was previously a head coach at the University of Texas at El Paso and Fresno State.

Copyright 2023 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Becky Fogel