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Major Applewhite 'scandal': Why is this news?

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A quick rundown of Texas dumping news of Major Applewhite's 2009 affair on Friday, and why it all matters


We're going to use "scandal" in air quotes for the moment, because nobody knows exactly what's going on with Texas offensive coordinator Major Applewhite. What we do know: Texas hustled out statements from athletic director DeLoss Dodds and Applewhite while you were sleeping on Friday night. The statements involved "inappropriate, consensual behavior" between Applewhite and a student at the 2009 Fiesta Bowl. And this is actually a problem ... maybe.

Let's set aside the whole moral thing for a moment. Yes, Applewhite is married and was at the time. The Fiesta Bowl was on Jan. 5 and Applewhite's daughter was also born sometime in January of 2009. It's all very messy, but that's not why Texas is scrambling right now.

The overwhelming reaction from those who were awake when Texas dropped the news on Friday night was: "So? Why does this matter now?" The news is significant, though we won't know the extent immediately.

First, let's read the tea leaves. Texas called an emergency Board of Regents meeting for Super Bowl Sunday. Schools don't just call emergency Board of Regents meetings for the fun of it. Regents don't like dropping everything and either traveling to campus or being stuck on a phone for a conference call. Emergency meetings come about when a) the school is in some kind of danger b) a lot of money is on the line or c) lawyers are involved. In the case of Texas, it's likely all of the above are true.

To the agenda!

U. T. Austin: Discussion regarding legal issues concerning individual athletics personnel

U. T. System: Discussion regarding legal issues related to inappropriate relationships between employees and students

And this all has to do with Applewhite. The university is still going to consult with its lawyers to see if there is a big problem here.

Which brings us to the second, and most important, point in all of this: Why is Texas worried about lawsuits and lawyers? The answer also solves the mystery of why the Applewhite news popped up now. Texas is being sued.

Texas isn't, however, being sued by anyone involved in the Applewhite thing, whatever it was. Instead, it's being sued by former women's track coach Bev Kearney. You see, Kearney resigned -- Texas was going to fire her -- after the school learned she'd had an affair with a female student. The school found out about the affair, which happened 10 years earlier, and everything came to a head. And then she sued.

We can surmise that in the process of discovery, Kearney's lawyer found out about what happened with Applewhite. Or, perhaps, her lawyer was going to. Her lawyer threatened to unleash a barrage of Freedom of Information Act requests a while back, and it's likely that those could have revealed something about the Applewhite affair.

Instead of having all of this come out via a lawyer suing the school, Texas dumped it in the middle of the night on the Friday before the Super Bowl. It's probably no coincidence that the board meeting is right before the Super Bowl, too. This is the best way to get the word out while not really getting the word out. It's a PR thing.

Applewhite should be fine, but there's a condition attached. Kearney's lawyer is likely trying to paint a picture that shows the former track coach was singled out. On paper, what happened with Applewhite and what happened with Kearney are different cases. The former is, as we know right now, a one-time thing with a student. The latter is, according to the information available, a prolonged affair with a student who was also a subordinate. That last part is important.

What we don't know is whether the student Applewhite had an affair with worked within the football program. If so, it could get prickly and Kearney may have a pretty strong case if Applewhite keeps his job. If not, Texas dumps all this news on the weekend of the Super Bowl and we're done with it.

But it matters, above and beyond the salacious aspect of the story. The lawsuit is the key that unlocks why this is happening. We just don't know how much it matters yet.

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