Longhorn Lovin’

An assistant football coach of the Texas Longhorns had sex with a UT student at the 2009 Fiesta Bowl:

In separate statements released Friday night, Dodds and Applewhite called the incident a one-time occurrence. [UT Athletic Director Deloss] Dodds said it happened during activities related to the 2009 Fiesta Bowl, when [UT Offensive Coordinator] Applewhite was UT’s assistant head coach and running backs coach.

Dodds said he learned of the incident later that month, and that Applewhite admitted his “inappropriate conduct.” Applewhite “fully accepted his discipline, including counseling,” Dodds said.

“Several years ago, I made a regretful decision resulting in behavior that was totally inappropriate,” Applewhite said in his statement. “It was a one-time occurrence and was a personal matter. Shortly after it occurred, I discussed the situation with DeLoss Dodds. I was upfront and took full responsibility for my actions. This is and was resolved four years ago with the university.

The university may have had reason to make this belated disclosure:

Last month, Bev Kearney, the women’s track coach at the University of Texas, resigned over an affair with “an adult student-athlete” in 2002. Was the African-American, gay, woman forced out over a consensual affair while the white male football coach (who was also a star football player at the school) received preferential treatment? In Applewhite’s case, the affair was not with an athlete, but there may have still been a supervisory role. It will be interesting to see how Texas spins this.

It seems to me the central question is whether or not there was a supervisory role (and if there was, what was the nature of it). That, to my mind, is a critical difference between the two incidents. I could be convinced that Applewhite should have been fired for his transgression (UT is reviewing the policy). The case that Kearney shouldn’t have been fired is much more difficult to make. Even at the professional level, where there is a much more ambiguous power relationship between coach and player and the players are older, that is a fireable offense under any reasonable handbook. Such things are almost certain to cause instability within the team the coach was hired to lead.

In the Applewhite case, I can really see it going either way. It seems inappropriate for anybody who is even technically a sorta-member of faculty to be sleeping with students. It also sets a bad standard for the student athletes and their conduct (how they handle the attention and adulation they receive, if of course we care about such things). It can be hard enough to get coaches to crack down on inappropriate (or illegal) personal conduct without coaches having inappropriate relations with students ten years their junior. On the other hand, it’s consensual and there is very little to indicate that their was sufficient power differential to cause concern for coercion.

One suspects that the Applewhite case is one of those things that is going to depend heavily on factors unrelated to the allegation. Which means that someone more prominent like Applewhite stays, while a lesser-known figure would be quietly dispatched.

Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.


  1. It seems to me the central question is whether or not there was a supervisory role (and if there was, what was the nature of it)


    It seems inappropriate for anybody who is even technically a sorta-member of faculty to be sleeping with students.

    Normally, yes. I would argue there are cases that demonstrate clear exceptions. E.g., I’ve known a number of academics who married former students and had long and happy marriages. But in those cases, as a general rule, the party that was the student was older, not a young impressionable late teen/early post-teen. But those are rare exceptions–they demonstrate that perhaps a hard-and-fast rule is too rigid, but they don’t demonstrate that it’s acceptable in most cases.

    • “It seems to me the central question is whether or not there was a supervisory role (and if there was, what was the nature of it)


      I have to say I don’t. Employees of schools should not go around sleeping with students, unless they want to get their schools’ proverbial asses sued off.

      • Meh. If a student and a janitor started dating, I can’t imagine I’d have a problem with it.

        • She could still decide to sue the school.

          If there is a school, college or university out there that does not have a written policy in every employ handbook explaining that students are off the menu, and that failure to adhere to that policy is grounds for immediate termination, I have certainly never heard of it.

          • I’m not doubting your expertise. To me, this falls under the same category as workplace dating bans. I understand the CYA aspect of it, but it’s indicative of something I don’t like.

            (A former star at my college dated and underclassmen. When he graduated prior to her and took a graduate assistant job, should he have had to break things off? It strikes me as problematic a policy that would require this. Even if I can agree that Apple white should have been canned.

          • newer but very New York Post. (still better than ‘the frisky’, which is what google linked to which in turn linked to this)

          • I know of plenty such colleges/universities, actually. McGill, for one – at least, that was the case when I went there and it’s still the case now.

            Most of them DO spell out in great detail the very very many cases where students ARE off the menu though. Including any kind of supervisory situation. McGill tended to (and still tends to) treat all relationships, familial or romantic, as Related Parties and then fold things into their CoI management scheme (see 3.9.1 at this link).

            I actually don’t think it makes any logical sense to just ban employees from dating students At All Ever. We have a whole corps of paraprofessional post-grads for example, most of whom are 22-24 years old, almost none of whom do any teaching or grading. Are they supposed to break up with their year-younger mates if they get the job??

  2. This is one of those things that seems to happen every year or almost every year at a college or university. There are always stories (some true, some not) about the roue professor who sleeps with a student. One of my professors married a student when he was a young professor (this was decade’s before my arrival as a freshman). Another left his first wife for a student.

    The big issue for me is whether colleges or universities handle student-professor/staff sexual relations equally. Meaning they are harsh or equal across the board without regard to race and sexuality. So be equally tough and come down against all such interactions or be equally lenient and allow all consenting relationships. Nothing inbetween. Don’t look away at the heterosexual relationship and punish the homosexual one.

  3. This is a really interesting case, the type that would be easy to blindly scream, “RACISM!” or “HOMOPHOBIA!” or even “SEXISM!” at, but which there might be enough substantive differences to make such claims ultimately baseless. Reading up a bit, I have to assume that Kearney was an elite talent, winning 7 national championships in 26 years. Her lack of stature was likely more a function of her sport (track and field) than her actual accomplishments.

    I’m tempted to think this is a both/and situation. Or, perhaps more accurately, an all-of-the-above situation. Kearney’s race, sexual orientation, gender, her sport, the nature of her relationship, the individual with which she had the relationship, all factored into her dismissal. I’d venture to guess that UT would have fired any coach guilty of what Kearney did regardless of race/gender/sexual orientation based on their statement that they “cannot condone such an intimate relationship, including one that is consensual, between a head coach and an [sic] student athlete. We told Coach Kearney such a relationship is unprofessional and crosses the line of trust placed in the head coach for all aspects of the athletic program and the best interests of the student athletes on the team.” But I am somewhat inclined to think that a person of color or lesbian or woman caught up in what Applewhite is caught up in would have been more likely to be fired, especially if they didn’t have his name value within the institution. But that is really all just speculation at this point and, even if my speculation proved accurate, it would be hard to delineate between explicit, conscious racism/sexism/homophobia and subconscious bias.

    Not mentioned, but I’m somewhat curious if we ought to think differently of one-off instances like Applewhite’s than we do of extended affairs like Kearney’s. On the one hand, Applewhite can argue his was a momentary lapse of judgement. On the other, there is something more unseemly about a one-night-stand than an extended, reciprocal, consensual relationship (assuming Kearney’s actually fits that description). I dunno… again… it’s curious…

    • I don’t think Kearney is being treated badly or contrary to policy. I’d venture quite a lot of money that policy is being adhered to very closely in her case. She is, after all, African-American and female and the affair for which she is being scrutinized was a homosexual one. Lots of “tread carefully” and “be sure you have good cover for yourself later” triggers there.

      Rather, I think Applewhite was treated better than policy. I don’t think that’s because he was white or male or chose an opposite-sex student with whom to have a fling. I think it’s because he was associated with the University of Texas’ football program. At a major football university, football people have privileges.

      • That is what I was trying to say, more or less. Did it read differently?

        • The reference to the prominence and special status afforded to football was pretty subtle. I do not believe that you used the word “football” at all.

          • It’s implied.

            “I was just reading an interesting article about UT.”

            “Oh, what was the score?”

          • That’s fair. Applewhite owes his privileged status largely to his history as a player. But even that… How much is attributed to race? Will Vince Young get a coaching gig there when he hangs it up? But now I’m just being difficult.

          • Kazzy, Vince Young is probably not the best example. I was actually going to say “like Ryan Leaf”… then I looked up what happened to Mr. Leaf and found out that he is in prison. So that would be an unfair comparison for Mr. Young. Anyway, VY is not likely coaching material for reasons not pertaining to his race.

    • I think this is largely right, Kazzy. I think there are a lot of factors at play.

      I’d say that there is a hierarchy of factors. Going something like (in descending order):
      Beloved former athlete and high-profile coach vs not
      Football vs track
      Demographic differences (not just race, see below)
      Straight vs. Lesbian

      Without the demographic difference, I actually might expect the homosexuality to be a benefit in a Sam Adams sort of way, given that UT is a liberal school (in contrast to a Texas A&M). But I think things spin differently between a very attractive and affable politician versus a relatively obscure and masculine coach of color.

      This is, of course, very speculative.

      • The school itself might be liberal, but a lot of the administration (particularly the board of regents) was appointed by Perry, et. al. and have a particular hatred for the way things are done. Powers tries to keep them in check, but there’s only so much he can do.

  4. It always shocks me when people are surprised that people fuck.

    I can’t believe how dense you are being with this story. The MAJOR (no pun intended) difference is that the dyke munched out with her one of her own athletes. Applewhite, OTHO, had zero professional relationship with his paramour.

    Believe me, if Applewhite had been caught fooling around with one of the football players, he would have resigned too.

    Get a grip, people.

    • Lone Voice, I’m going to allow the slurs in your comment to stand. It’s your first time here so maybe you aren’t familiar with how we do things. Please don’t mistake my failure to edit the offensive language out your comment as any sort of endorsement or approval — the opposite is true.

      A word like the one you used in reference to a lesbian should be understood to be on the same level as some well-known racial slurs I decline to reprint here because you’d have to be very obtuse indeed not to take my meaning. New ideas and new voices are welcome, but I strongly suggest that you take some time to compose your next comment and find a socially acceptable way to phrase your point next time because the next time I see langauge like that on my blog I will probably not be quite so polite about it as this.

      Aside from the inherent good of social acceptability, there is anothe reason you should be more cautious and respectful in your phrasing. The use of words and phrases like that detracts from rather than assists the substantive point you raise, becuase it makes people think that you’re a bigot who disapproves of same-sex relationships. It takes some teasing apart to separate that from what you do object to, which is the power differential between the lovers. Don’t hide your real point behind foul language.

      Now, your point about the power differential between people engaging in sexual and/or romantic relationships is well-taken. If you were to re-read Will’s OP a little bit more closely:

      …the central question is whether or not there was a supervisory role (and if there was, what was the nature of it).

      ..you’d see that he agrees with you. Indeed, I don’t think anyone has said anything that could even be remotely interpreted as even suggesting that Kearney’s conduct was appropriate (somehow we found a way to do that without using slurs to describe her or making reference to specific kinds of sexual acts). But it may not be true that Applewhite had “zero” professional relationship with his paramour:

      In Applewhite’s case, the affair was not with an athlete, but there may have still been a supervisory role.

      If Applewhite’s lover had been, let’s say, a sideline technician who made some extra money or earned course credit by helping maintain the electronics communications system, and Applewhite as a coach has appreciable amounts of authority to direct and control what’s happening where this woman was working either for pay or educational credit, then we’re in different territory than if they just had a few drinks and one thing led to another.

  5. It’s hard to say if the two incidents can be compared to each other. Institutions and firms usually have rules about this sort of thing: I was consulting at a firm where two employees fell in love. We threw them a nice engagement party, wished them both well — and he went to work at another firm across Michigan Avenue. One or the other had to go.

    There’s always more to these things than we’re given to see from the outside. In the first instance, Major Applewhite was reprimanded and Bev Kearney resigned. There does seem to be some inconsistency to how these incidents were handled. That said, it’s not clear Bev White was forced out. She may have chosen resignation rather than the fate of Major Applewhite, who submitted to discipline. We don’t know.

    The first story implies Bev White might bring a lawsuit. From the rumours I’ve googled up, it appears the Bev White incident only came to light when the student returned to school in 2012, a decade after the incident had taken place and it may not have been entirely consensual. If anything, Bev White is more likely to be a defendant than a plaintiff.

    • Also his middle name. In fact, before he was adopted by the Applewhites…

      • The Applewhites saved him from a really unhappy career in the military.

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