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The University of Texas at Austin fired Texas basketball coach Chris Byrd weeks after he was charged with a third-degree felony for domestic violence, university officials said Thursday.
“The University of Texas has parted ways with Chris Beard,” Texas Athletic Director Chris Del Conte said in a statement. “It was a difficult situation that we worked hard on.”
Beard was arrested on 12 December. for allegedly strangling his fiancée, Randy Trew, after Austin police answered an emergency call at a Tarrytown home in the early hours of the morning.
Beard’s contract contained a standard clause among agreements with UT-Austin that allows the university to suspend or terminate him for any conduct that is “indecent” or results in a criminal charge “related to a felony or any offense involving theft, dishonesty, or moral debauchery,” according to the Austin American-Statesman.
According to UT-Austin senior public relations manager Brian Davis, since Byrd was fired for good reason, the university does not need to pay the remainder of his contract.
Byrd had the second season of a seven-year contract with Texas that paid approximately $5 million annually, as well as additional perks. He was one of the highest paid employees of the university.
According to a copy of the arrest statement tweeted by Orangebloods reporter Anwar Richardson, Beard’s fiancée claimed they had an argument when she snatched Beard’s glasses from his hand and broke them. She claimed that he tore her glasses off her face and then strangled her from behind with his hand for about five seconds.
“He choked me, threw me off the bed, bit me, my whole leg was bruised,” she told police, according to an affidavit. True told police that she couldn’t breathe when Beard put his arm around her neck. In the affidavit, police noted visible teeth marks and redness at the site of the bite on her right forearm.
After the arrest, UT-Austin removed Byrd from his position, withheld his salary, and launched an internal investigation.
“The university takes issues of interpersonal violence involving community members seriously,” the university said in a statement.
On December 23, Trew released a statement on Twitter denying Byrd strangled her and stating that Byrd told police he acted in self-defense.
“I do not deny this,” the statement said. “I don’t believe Chris was intentionally trying to harm me. It was never my intention to have him arrested or prosecuted.”
In a statement to the Statesman, Beard’s lawyer Perry Minton called Trew “an intelligent and independent woman.”
“I think everyone should let her have her say on this matter,” he said.
At the time, the university said it was looking into Trew’s application. According to records obtained by the Statesman by open request, Byrd was offered the opportunity to resign, but declined.
According to statesmanMinton wrote to UT, “I want to make it official and memorialize that Coach Byrd did nothing to violate any provision of his contract with the University of Texas.”
Minton did not immediately respond to The Texas Tribune’s request for comment on Byrd’s firing.
While Beard can sue the university for being fired, it can be difficult to win the case.
Texas law protects the state and its entities from lawsuits, even if the entity is in breach of contract. Former Texas Tech University football coach Mike Leach, who died suddenly last month from complications of a heart attack, was involved in a legal battle with the university since 2009 due to his dismissal, accusing the university of wrongful dismissal.
Deputy head coach Rodney Terry will remain UT’s acting head coach until the end of the Longhorn season.
“We thank Coach Rodney Terry for his exemplary leadership both on and off the court at a time when our team needed it most,” Del Conte said.
On January 18, Byrd will have a hearing in the Travis County District Court. Attorneys at the Travis County District Attorney’s Office are reviewing the case to see if it will proceed.
Disclosure: Texas Tech University and the University of Texas at Austin provided financial support to The Texas Tribune, a non-profit, non-partisan news organization funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial sponsors play no role in Tribune journalism. Find the complete list them here.