Chris Beard’s firing has been inevitable for weeks—ever since the moment the Austin Police Department released an arrest report describing the domestic violence allegedly committed by the former University of Texas head men’s basketball coach.

“He choked me, threw me off the bed, bit me, bruises all over my leg, throwing me around, and going nuts.”

That’s some of what Beard’s fiancée, Randi Trew, told officers in the early morning hours of December 12. She described a deteriorating relationship and escalating tension.

UT fired Beard with cause on Thursday, less than two seasons into a seven-year, $35 million contract. In a written response to the university’s action, Beard’s attorney, Perry Minton, wrote: “I want to be on record as emphatically stating, and herein memorializing, that Coach Beard has not done anything to violate any provision of his contract with the University of Texas.”

UT’s vice president for legal affairs, Jim Davis, wrote back that Beard was guilty of “unacceptable behavior that makes him unfit to serve as head coach at our university.” Davis wrote that uncertainty about whether the Travis County district attorney would pursue the case had no bearing on the outcome of the school’s investigation. “Your letter this morning reveals that Mr. Beard does not understand the significance of the behavior he knows he engaged in, or the ensuing events that impair his ability to effectively lead our program,” Davis wrote. “This lack of self-awareness is yet another failure of judgment.”

Beard, 49, was charged with third-degree domestic violence on the day of the arrest. UT immediately suspended him without pay. In the investigation that followed, university officials offered Beard and his legal team a chance to lay out the case for why he should keep his job, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

The university chose to terminate Beard’s contract even though Trew recanted elements of her original statement a week after the arrest. In a statement given to the press on December 18, Trew said Beard had not strangled her and that she did not refute Beard’s claim that he had acted in self-defense. The Travis County district attorney’s office is reviewing whether to go forward with criminal charges against Beard. But nothing can change what officers saw and what they were told that morning.

Institutions reveal their values in moments like this, and in Beard’s case, the University of Texas decided that there could be no middle ground. Even before any resolution of the criminal charges against the basketball coach, UT could no longer be associated with him. Beard was offered the chance to resign, according to documents obtained by the American-Statesman. He chose not to. Now the two sides appear headed toward letting the legal system decide if Beard can collect on any of the five years remaining on his original contract.

“This has been a difficult situation that we’ve diligently been working through,” Longhorns athletic director Chris Del Conte said in a statement. “Today I informed Mr. Beard of our decision to terminate him effective immediately.”

We may never know what Beard was feeling during those hours when he was locked up and alone with his thoughts that December night. Did he understand that the life he’d had—earning millions, adored by thousands—would never be the same? Could he comprehend that he’d never coach another game for Texas, and that he’s unlikely to coach basketball at any level for a long, long time?

This isn’t as simple a question as it might appear. Men like Chris Beard have their shoes kissed in every room they enter, and if they aren’t careful, they start to believe that society’s rules and norms do not apply to them.

This surely isn’t how UT imagined its association with Beard would end when it announced his hiring in April 2021. Back then, poaching the wildly successful Texas Tech coach—convincing him to return and coach for his alma mater—was a cause for celebration. He’d built a reputation as one of college basketball’s best coaches over five seasons in Lubbock, peaking with a 2019 NCAA tournament run that lasted all the way to the national championship game.

At Texas, Beard had led the Longhorns to a 22–12 finish in his first season, and the basketball team had risen as high as number two in the Associated Press poll last December—before Beard’s conduct brought everything crashing down, leaving the program with which he was trusted, and which he had promised millions he would lead to championship contention, mired in uncertainty.