Texas has fired basketball coach Chris Beard, the program announced Thursday, nearly a month after he was arrested on a third-degree felony assault charge for allegedly strangling, biting and assaulting his fiancée in their home.
"The University of Texas has parted ways with Chris Beard," Texas athletic director Chris Del Conte said in a statement. "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."
Beard was fired for cause, sources tell CBS Sports. As such, he will not be entitled to any salary or buyout money from the seven-year, $35 million contract he signed with the Longhorns ahead of the 2021-22 season. The deal was set to run through 2028.
A source told CBS Sports that Del Conte was not the one who ultimately decided to fire Beard, that this decision came from others in power at the university.
Beard's lawyer, Perry Minton, sent a lengthy letter to James Davis, the UT vice president of legal affairs Thursday morning after learning UT was moving to fire his client: "Your update to me this morning came as a shock, coming so far into this process and after positive developments that firmly support Coach Beard's declaration that he is innocent of any crime and has not done anything that '(a) is unbecoming a head coach and reflects poorly on the University or (b) resulted in felony criminal charges.' He was arrested, then his fiancée retracted her previously reported statement, and I expect that the Travis County District Attorney is very soon going to decline any and all charges in the matter."
"Chris Beard engaged in unacceptable behavior that makes him unfit to serve as head coach at our university," UT said in part in its response to Mr. Minton. "There seems to be an incorrect underlying assumption that the criminal process outcome dictates Mr. Beard's employment outcome. But these are different processes, where different decision makers are weighing different factors.
"We understand that some but not all of the reports of Mr. Beard's behavior were retracted," the letter continued. "It is his actual behavior that we consider, not whether some acts also constitute a crime."
Minton later issued a statement saying Beard is "crushed at the news" that he was fired and questioned Texas' motives for firing Beard and the extent of their knowledge of the incident.
"They proceeded to terminate Coach Beard without asking him a single question of him or his fiancée," Minton wrote.
Texas suspended Beard indefinitely without pay on Dec. 12 after the arrest. He had not been allowed around the team since that date.
"The University takes matters of interpersonal violence involving members of its community seriously," UT said in a Dec. 12 statement.
Randi Trew, Beard's fiancée, told police the night of the incident that Beard "choked me, threw me off the bed, bit me, bruises all over my leg, throwing me around, and going nuts" as part of her statement in the arrest report.
Eleven days later, on Dec. 23, Trew recanted her original statement. Through her lawyer, Trew claimed to be the initiator of the "struggle." She said Beard did not strangle her the night she called 911 in the early hours of Dec. 12 and that she did not tell police otherwise, despite what is contained in the arrest report. Trew did not refute that Beard acted in self-defense that evening.
Police documented visible wounds and signs of struggle on Trew's body when they interviewed her on Dec. 12. The arrest report noted that Trew told Austin Police, "I could not breathe; he did it probably for like 5 seconds."
In recanting her statement, Trew said, "It was never my intent to have him arrested or prosecuted."
As of Thursday, the felony charge against Beard has not been dropped by the local District Attorney's Office in Austin, Texas. Beard's next court date is scheduled for Jan. 18.
A Texas alumnus, Beard was hired to massive fanfare in April 2021 after five successful seasons at Texas Tech. No. 6 Texas stands at 12-2 winning five of six games under interim coach Rodney Terry since Beard's suspension. The Longhorns play at Oklahoma State on Saturday.
"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 added. "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."