Updated at: 01/06/2013 4:07 AM
By JIM VERTUNO
(AP) AUSTIN, Texas - University of Texas women’s track coach Bev Kearney resigned Saturday and acknowledged in an interview with the Austin American-Statesman that she had an intimate relationship with an athlete in her program in 2002.
Kearney, who won six national championships since 1993, was placed on paid leave in November as university officials investigated unspecified issues within the program. In a statement released Saturday night, university officials said the relationship was first reported to the school in October and the school was taking measures to fire Kearney before she resigned.
Neither Kearney nor the university identified the former Texas athlete. Kearney told the newspaper it was a "consensual intimate relationship" that began in July 2002 and ended later that year.
Kearney didn’t immediately return a telephone message left at her home late Saturday night.
Patti Ohlendorf, Texas vice president for legal affairs, said school officials don’t believe Kearney had any similar relationships with other student athletes.
"Coach Kearney is a good person and has been very important to the university. However, she made this terrible mistake and used unacceptably poor judgment in having this relationship," Ohlendorf said.
Despite Kearney’s characterization of a consensual relationship between adults, Ohlendorf said the university "cannot condone such an intimate relationship, including one that is consensual, between a head coach and an student athlete. We told Coach Kearney such a relationship is unprofessional and crosses the line of trust placed in the head coach for all aspects of the athletic program and the best interests of the student athletes on the team."
The 55-year-old Kearney was among the highest-profile women’s track coaches in the country and the university was planning to give her a raise before she was suspended. Kearney was inducted into the U.S. Track and Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2007. She’s also a member of the International Women’s Sports Hall of Fame.
In her interview with the Statesman, Kearney said she didn’t know why the relationship resurfaced a decade after it ended.
"You destroy yourself. You start questioning how could you make such a judgment," she said. "How could you make such an error after all the years? You can get consumed (by it) ... I didn’t commit a crime, but I displayed poor judgment."
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)