AUSTIN (KXAN) — The University of Texas at Austin has fired Chris Beard as its head men’s basketball coach, Texas Athletics Director Chris Del Conte announced Thursday.
“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,” Del Conte wrote in the release.
Beard was arrested around 4 a.m., Dec. 12 after Austin police were called to a home in the 1900 block of Vista Lane. Beard was charged with assault by strangulation/suffocation – family violence, a third-degree felony, after being accused of choking and hitting his fiancée.
Shortly after his arrest, he was suspended from his coaching position without pay “until further notice.” Since then, associate head coach Rodney Terry has been the acting head coach for the Longhorns basketball team, ranked No. 6 in the country in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Beard, who was hired by UT after coaching five years at Texas Tech, leaves the program with a 29-13 record over part of two seasons. He led Texas Tech to the National Championship game in 2019, losing to Virginia.
Perry Minton, Beard’s attorney, released a statement on behalf of the former Longhorns head coach, writing Beard is “crushed” and “devastated” by the news.
“Chris Beard is crushed at the news he will not be coaching at the University of Texas. At the outset of Coach Beard’s suspension, The University promised they would conduct an independent investigation surrounding the allegations and make a decision regarding his employment only after they had done so. They proceeded to terminate Coach Beard without asking a single question of him or his fiancé. Since the arrest, there have only been positive developments clearly demonstrating his innocence. Additionally, it is my opinion shared by others that any potential charges against Coach Beard will be declined very soon. This is in addition to the statements made by his fiancé that emphatically state that the original reports were inaccurate. 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. The University has violated their agreement with the coach and we are devastated.”
Beard’s case related to the third-degree felony remains pending in a pre-indictment stage, according to Travis County District Clerk records.
The Travis County District Attorney’s Office released a statement on the case Thursday.
“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. Our office takes all allegations of domestic violence seriously; in each case, we are committed to working through the unique challenges presented,” the statement reads.
Rules for contract termination
As part of the agreement, Beard is responsible for complying with “Governing Athletic Rules and University Rules.” Violating those rules could be “sufficient cause for disciplinary action.”
“The University has established an expectation of ethical conduct at all levels of University life. In accordance with this expectation, Head Coach, as a member of the Athletics Department, agrees to represent the University in an honorable and ethical manner at all times,” according to the agreement.
UT also has the right, according to the agreement, to suspend Beard or terminate him “for cause” before the end of the contract period.
Cause could include a “serious or major violation” that reflects “adversely upon the University, its athletics program, or The University of Texas System,” the agreement states.
Beard’s coaching history
Including a 7-1 record this season, Beard is 29-13 as the Longhorns’ head coach. He went 22-12 last year and guided the team to the second round of the NCAA tournament before losing to Purdue 81-71. The Longhorns beat Virginia Tech in the first round of the tournament 81-73 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
Beard began his coaching career in Austin as a student assistant under then-head coach Tom Penders, but his most recent head coaching job before UT was in Lubbock for the Texas Tech Red Raiders. There he led the program to the National Championship game in 2019, losing to the Virginia Cavaliers. The year before, he took the Red Raiders to the first Elite Eight in school history. In five seasons in Lubbock, Beard was 112-55 overall and 9-3 in the NCAA tournament.
Prior to coaching at Texas Tech, Beard was a head coach at Arkansas-Little Rock (2015-16), Angelo State (2013-15), McMurry State (2012-13) and Seminole State College (2000-01). He was also an assistant coach at Texas Tech for 10 years from 2001-2011.
Associate head coach Rodney Terry has been serving as the acting head coach while Beard remains suspended.