Game clock has run down for Chris Beard

Men who hit women tend to be multiple offenders. Especially men who throttle and bite them, as Beard is alleged to have done.

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Jimmy V Classic - Illinois v Texas

Texas Longhorns head coach Chris Beard looks on during the second half of the game against the Illinois Fighting Illini at Madison Square Garden on December 6 in New York City.

Dustin Satloff/Getty Images

In my experience, it’s a rare man who wakes up at age 49 and starts beating up women. Chances are, then, that this wasn’t University of Texas basketball coach Chris Beard’s first rodeo. It’s just that nobody’s ever called the cops before.

Or if they did, the cops quietly tiptoed away.

Men who hit women tend to be multiple offenders. Especially men who throttle and bite them, as Beard is alleged to have done. There are crime scene photos and a written affidavit testifying to that. The coach has been charged with a third-degree felony.

In the sports world, athletes and coaches have long gotten away with this stuff because everybody agreed to look the other way. I had a personal experience with how the system worked — or, more accurately, refused to work to protect women — on a university campus many years ago. I’ve often wondered if I shouldn’t have done more.

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But first, the basics of Beard’s situation. The highly successful coach of the Texas Longhorns, currently ranked seventh nationally, was arrested by Austin police after 2 a.m. on Dec. 12 after his fiancee dialed 911 following a violent altercation in their home. She alleges that he punched and kicked her, threw her to the floor and throttled her. Photos document multiple bruises and bite marks.

Bite marks!

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In the police affidavit reported by the Austin American-Statesman, the victim stated the couple had argued bitterly about “relationship issues.” During an earlier confrontation, she’d broken his reading glasses. When she offered him another pair, Beard allegedly lost it, throwing her around like a rag doll and choking the breath out of her for what she estimated was 5 seconds — a long time if you can’t breathe.

Beard told police he had an audio recording that would prove she was the aggressor — a bad idea, because the claim confirmed the altercation, leading to his arrest. The existence of a sworn statement also makes it impossible for the victim to refuse to press charges, as victims of domestic violence so often do, particularly when money is involved.

Beard is in the second year of a seven-year, $5 million-a-year contract. The University of Texas board immediately suspended him indefinitely without pay. Potentially, $30 million has flown out the window. The coach’s lawyer told reporters he is “100% innocent of these charges. He should never have been arrested. The complainant wants him released immediately and all charges dismissed. It is truly inconceivable.”

But it’s not up to the victim; it’s up to the prosecuting attorney, and politically speaking, there couldn’t be a worse place in Texas for Beard to be in this kind of jam than Austin. A UT graduate, he surely understands that. These charges won’t just go away. If convicted, he could face two to 10 years in prison.

Although a plea bargain appears likely, it’s highly unlikely that Longhorn fans will see Chris Beard’s scowling visage on the Texas sideline again. He’s always been the kind of coach who yells a lot, but all the anger management therapy in the world won’t make people see him the same way again. Probably somebody will give Beard another chance — his teams play hard and smart — but maybe not anywhere he’d really want to be.

My own experience in this sordid kind of thing took place at the University of Arkansas during the ‘80s. I’d driven my teenage sons to Fayetteville to attend a Razorback basketball camp.

I let the oldest drive my car on campus. He locked the keys inside. This put me in touch with a campus cop who, in the process of unlocking my car, fumed that he’d just come from a domestic violence call involving a Razorback athlete and it was already being swept under the rug.

He said the player, a brilliant Razorback guard, had beaten up yet another girl, and the university police were told to let the athletic department handle it. I told him I was an off-duty reporter for a national magazine. I wouldn’t burn him, but if he wanted, I’d put him in touch with a colleague who would report the story. He gave me his business card with his home phone number written on the back.

Returning to Little Rock, I gave the card to the state news (i.e., non-sports) editor at the Arkansas Gazette. He called the cop, who denied ever meeting me, expressing anger that I’d gotten his phone number. And that was basically that. The player went on to a brilliant NBA career marred by arrests for domestic violence. An athlete with the strength and quickness to have been a light-heavyweight champion, he was accused of beating up girls.

The awful truth, I fear, is that I’d done as little as I could without inconveniencing myself overmuch. You see, I was a fan.

Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of “The Hunting of the President.”

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