Documents show Texas track coach fired ‘without cause’

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas track coach Mario Sategna was fired “without cause” despite a record of multiple men’s and women’s Big 12 championships, according to documents released by the school Thursday.

Sategna had been under a previous ethics and misconduct investigation in 2016 but was allowed to return with no explanation of the probe or what it found. Before that investigation began, Sategna had notified Texas officials he was taking a personal leave.

Sategna was dismissed Feb. 15 in the last year of his contract. New athletic director Chris Del Conte said the program needed a “new” direction despite Sategna’s record of success. By firing Sategna without cause, Texas owed him about $220,000.

According to records released to The Associated Press, Sategna was planning a Texas bid to host the 2019 or 2020 NCAA championships. The records didn’t include any disciplinary notes.

One letter from women’s athletic director Chris Plonsky, Sategna’s supervisor, and then-men’s athletic director Mike Perrin in June 2017 said Sategna was appreciated and thanked him for his service to the school.

Sategna’s attorney declined comment Thursday night. In October 2017, Sategna had earned a $20,000 bonus for his team’s good academic performance.

Sategna had been with the Texas track program for 15 years and he was the head coach for the last five. In one note released Thursday, Sategna had noted he was frustrated he didn’t have a contract extension and he had “not had control of hiring my staff, their salaries or positions of advancement.”

Sategna took over the program in 2013 after Texas dismissed former coach Bev Kearney following revelations she had a relationship with a student-athlete a decade earlier. She has filed a race and sex discrimination lawsuit against the school that is still pending.

The school has previously said its investigation into Sategna in 2016 didn’t involve NCAA compliance or gender discrimination issues. When he returned to Texas, Sategna said he had needed time for “self-improvement” and was grateful to come back. Texas won its third consecutive men’s Big 12 outdoor title a few months later.

The women’s teams also swept the Big 12 indoor and outdoor championship in 2014, and Texas won both the men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor league titles in 2015.

Sategna is also a prominent coach in international track and field. He was an assistant throwing coach with the U.S. track team at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where former Longhorns Ryan Crouser and Michelle Carter each won gold in the shot put. He was the USA men’s head coach at the 2017 world championships in London.

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