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UT Austin fires basketball coach Chris Beard amid felony domestic violence charge

chris beard.jpg
John Minchillo
/
AP
Chris Beard had been suspended without pay since he was arrested, and UT officials have said there is an ongoing internal investigation.

Texas fired basketball coach Chris Beard on Thursday while he faces a felony domestic family violence charge stemming from a Dec. 12 incident involving his fiancée.

The Associated Press obtained the termination letter that was sent to Beard’s attorney.

Beard had five years left on a seven-year guaranteed contract that includes a provision he could be fired for cause if he was charged with a felony. The charge of assault by strangulation/suffocation family violence carries a possible prison sentence of two to 10 years if convicted; the woman told police he strangled and bit her, but later denied Beard choked her.

Beard had been suspended without pay since he was arrested, and school officials have said there is an ongoing internal investigation.

Police responded to an emergency call at Beard’s house after midnight on Dec. 12 and arrested him after Beard’s fiancée, Randi Trew, told officers he choked her from behind, bit her and hit her when the two got in an argument. Beard’s attorney has said the coach is innocent.

The Associated Press does not typically identify alleged victims of extreme violence, but Trew issued a public statement on Dec. 23 in which she denied telling police Beard choked her. She also said she never intended for him to be arrested or prosecuted.

“Chris did not strangle me, and I told that to law enforcement that evening,” Trew said in her statement. “Chris has stated that he was acting in self-defense, and I do not refute that. I do not believe Chris was trying to intentionally harm me in any way.”

Trew’s statement did not address why she made the emergency call or other details in the police report, such as bite marks and abrasions on her face and telling officers that she couldn’t breathe for about five seconds.

According to the arrest affidavit, Trew initially told police that she and Beard they had been in an argument where she broke his glasses before he “just snapped on me and became super violent.” Police reported Trew said Beard slapped her glasses off her face and “choked me, bit me, bruises all over my leg, throwing me around and going nuts.”

The Travis County district attorney’s office has not responded to previous requests for comment on Beard’s case or whether Trew’s Dec. 23 statement would change how prosecutors proceed with the felony charge.

A Jan. 18 court hearing is scheduled, according to online records.

Beard led Texas Tech to the 2019 NCAA Tournament championship game and was hired at Texas in 2021 with the expectation that he would lift his alma mater to the same elite level. He had the Longhorns program humming this season, starting 6-0 and ranked as high as No. 2.

Associate head coach Rodney Terry took Beard’s place during the suspension. The Longhorns (12-2, 1-1 Big 12) won their first five games under Terry before losing 116-103 to Kansas State on Tuesday.

A Texas graduate, Beard spent 10 seasons at Texas Tech as an assistant under Bob Knight from 2001-2011, then returned there as head coach in 2016.

He was 112-55 in five seasons with the Red Raiders and was named The The Associated Press coach of the year in 2019 as he guided Texas Tech to a 31-7 finish and lost in an overtime thriller to Virginia in the national championship game.

His departure for Texas — a deal reached after a meeting with Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte that included a McDonald’s breakfast an hour’s drive north of Lubbock — left Texas Tech officials frustrated.

As soon as he landed in Austin, Beard set out to rebuild a program from the ground up as he rebuilt the Texas roster and tried to whip up new enthusiasm for the program as he engaged with students and held often comedic “fireside chats” on campus. In his first season, he led Texas to a first-round victory over Virginia Tech that was the Longhorns’ first NCAA Tournament win since 2014.