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.

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