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Letter to Chris Beard’s lawyer lays out rationale for termination

Beard was offered the opportunity to resign before he was terminated for cause.

NCAA Basketball: Jimmy V Classic-Illinois at Texas Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

On Thursday, the Texas Longhorns fired head coach Chris Beard for cause following his December felony arrest for domestic violence.

“The University of Texas at Austin is terminating your employment, effective January 5, 2023, pursuant to Section 7(A)(12) of your employment contract. Suspension or Termination by the University for Cause,” said a letter sent to Beard by the school. “As noted in your employment contract, all obligations of the University to make further payment or provide any other consideration will cease as of January 5, 2023.”

The decision to terminate Beard for cause came after back-and-forth communications between Perry Minton, Beard’s lawyer, and James Davis, the Texas vice president for legal affairs.

“Your update to me this morning came as a shock, coming so far into this process and after positive developments that firmly support Coach Beard’s declaration that he is innocent of any crime and has not done anything that “(a) is unbecoming a head coach and reflects poorly on the University or (b) resulted in felony criminal charges. He was arrested, then his fiancee retracted her previously reported statement, and I expect that the Travis County District Attorney is very shortly going to decline any and all charges in the matter. Additionally, it should be noted by the University that in the State of Texas, felony charges are brought by indictment and not by arrest. 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,” Minton wrote.

Minton later noted that Beard was offered the chance to resign or be terminated in the hours before the university made its decision to fire Beard for cause in addition to receiving assurances from Texas athletics director Chris Del Conte of his belief in Beard’s innocence.

“Being a head coach at The University of Texas at Austin is about more than winning games. The privilege of coaching comes with a great responsibility that goes beyond just avoiding improper conduct. A coach is a leader — a leader who develops student athletes’ positive character, supports their education, prepares them for success in lives after graduation, and represents the University of Texas with honor and respect. A coach’s influence is effected through both professional and personal interactions,” Davis wrote in response.

“Chris Beard engaged in unacceptable behavior that makes him unfit to serve as head coach at our university. Instead of immediately terminating Mr. Beard, the university exercised thoughtful restraint to allow time for additional material facts to emerge. Mr. Del Conte supported Mr. Beard and the program by supporting this pause before action and by presuming his innocence while the facts unfolded. But that support was not a determination regarding Mr. Beard’s conduct — such a decision would have been premature. It is a mistake to view a manager’s support for an employee as a statement of belief in criminal guilt or innocence. We understand that some but not all of the reports of Mr. Beard’s behavior were retracted. It is his actual behavior that we consider, not whether some acts also constitute a crime. 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.

“There seems to be an incorrect underlying assumption that the criminal process outcome dictates Mr. Beard’s employment outcome. But these are different processes, where different decision makers are weighing different factors. My call to you, as Mr. Beard’s lawyer, was a courtesy to let you know that Athletics Director Chris Del Conte was prepared to start the termination process of Mr. Beard, that Mr. Del Conte was calling Mr. Beard that morning, and that there was only a short window open for Mr. Beard to resign should he choose to avoid termination. The university does not have a preference for his resignation versus his termination. And again, 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.

“Additionally, your letter this morning reveals that Mr. Beard does not understand the significance of the behavior he knows he engaged in, or the ensuing events that impair his ability to effectively lead our program. 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. For these reasons, the university proceeds to terminate Mr. Beard. The attached letter is his termination notice and will be part of his employee file.”