Cleve Bryant was fired for harassment

Updated: September 16, 2011, 2:00 AM ET
By Steve Delsohn | ESPN

University of Texas football coach Mack Brown's longtime associate athletics director for football operations was dismissed from the university last March because a university investigation determined he made repeated unwanted sexual advances toward a female administrative assistant over a two-year period, "Outside the Lines" has learned.

Cleve Bryant, who oversaw numerous daily activities for the Longhorns, including game-day-operations, team travel and recruiting weekends, was fired after a university investigator determined "that Mr. Bryant did sexually harass" the staffer and that "the harassment was likely both verbal and physical."

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AP Photo/Harry CabluckCleve Bryant, left, was Texas coach Mack Brown's right-hand man until Bryant's employment abruptly ended last spring.

"Outside the Lines" obtained documents from the university's investigation that followed a sexual harassment complaint filed by Rachel Arena, a then 24-year-old football department employee who had graduated from Texas in 2008.

The documents include Arena's formal complaint, interviews with Bryant and Arena conducted by attorneys and school officials, and an investigator's conclusion and recommendations to university president William Powers.

Documents show that Arena told investigators:

• That during a July 2010 meeting in Bryant's office about whether she would receive a raise, Bryant pulled down the top of her dress and bra and fondled her breast.

• That Bryant repeatedly either told her in person or texted her that "I want to kiss you."

• That Bryant retaliated after she told him to stop texting by creating a false allegation that she had acted inappropriately at a minor league baseball game she attended with some former Texas football players.

• That one day while in the break room, getting a bottle of water, Bryant came in, stood in front of the door as she started to leave and said, "Kiss me." Arena said she turned away and Bryant kissed her on the neck before she could leave.

• That two other female office workers alleged that Bryant had inappropriately kissed them in the past.

• That another woman in the athletic department referred to Bryant as "old-freak-nasty" and that he once told Arena "he wanted to touch me, that he wanted to pleasure me, that he could, that he could make me happy, referring to sexually, things like that."

Bryant, who is married, denied all of the allegations in his interviews. Through his attorney, Tom Nesbitt, he declined an ESPN interview request Thursday.

Bryant appealed his firing, but it's unclear where that appeal stands because university officials would not discuss any aspects of this story.

"The university chooses not to comment at this time," said senior associate athletic director for communications Nick Voinis.

Mack Brown, before taping his coach's show today, was asked by the Longhorn Network for his reaction. Brown had no comment.

Before her graduation, Arena had been a member of the Texas Angels and Gabriels, student body members who acted as hostesses (Angels) and hosts (Gabriels) when high school recruits visited campus. Texas hired Arena after her graduation as an administrative assistant in the football department, where day-to-day operations were supervised by Bryant.

The Texas investigator's report to school president Powers states that "Mr. Bryant suggests that Ms. Arena contrived her story because she had been denied an $11,000 raise ... This investigator does not believe that Ms. Arena was denied a raise for other than legitimate business reasons, but also does not believe that she invented these incidents over a two-year period."

Regarding Bryant, the report said: "As a result of ... inconsistencies between Mr. Bryant's testimony and objective facts and the testimony of many witnesses, this investigator does not find Mr. Bryant credible."

Arena told investigators her problem with Bryant began shortly after she was hired in 2008. She said comments from Bryant started with texts, which soon went from benign to sexually charged.

"It progressed to more personal questions and at all hours, including weekends," said Arena. "He would ask me when I was going out, where I was going, and what I was wearing. He would ask me if I went home with anyone and about my sex life."

She told investigator Linda Millstone, the associate vice president for institutional equity, that in April 2009, she showed some of Bryant's texts to her mother, who urged her to tell Bryant to stop. Taking her mother's advice, Arena said she texted Bryant, "This is inappropriate. You're my boss."

School officials, however, noted that Arena still texted Bryant after this time, sometimes after standard business hours. Arena and her attorneys said she only texted Bryant on UT football matters -- and UT football is not an 8-to-5 job.

Bryant and Brown have been friends and colleagues for years. From 1995 to 1997, Bryant coached under Brown at North Carolina. When Brown moved to Texas in 1998, he brought Bryant with him as the associate athletic director for football operations. They worked so closely together that Bryant was characterized in a New York Times article as Brown's "buffer, confidant and mind reader." The piece ended with the Brown quote: "I've said many times if Cleve leaves, I'm leaving, too."

In the documents, Arena said she communicated with Brown in a letter and in person about her request for a raise. But there are no references to her telling Brown that Bryant had been making unwanted sexual advances toward her. "I was upset," she said, "but I couldn't bring myself to tell him [Brown] what had happened."

Arena filed her formal complaint of sexual assault and sexual harassment with the university's Office of Institutional Equity in October 2010, shortly after taking a leave of absence. On that same day, the university learned that Gloria Allred, a prominent Los Angeles attorney, was representing Arena.

Allred said Arena's complaint with the university has since been settled, declining to say for how much. She added that Arena is not pursuing a criminal complaint but would not say the reason why. Arena, who declined to be interviewed, no longer works at the university.

Asked about the culture in the Texas football program office, Allred said: "It appears that some female employees of (Texas) athletics may be afraid to come forward because they fear that if they file a complaint, that they may be retaliated against and lose their job. They are concerned that they will be considered troublemakers, rather than persons who are simply exercising their right to work in an environment free of sexual harassment.

"They need their jobs and love athletics, so this places them in a very difficult situation, which is stressful and allows predators to continue their sexual harassment. The only way to stop it is for the university to make it crystal clear to anyone that they should report sexual harassment when it occurs and that victims will be protected from retaliation if they file a complaint."

In June, ESPN's "Outside the Lines" filed public records requests to the university for any records and reports relating to Bryant and possible misconduct. The university sought to withhold those documents under what it said were exceptions to state law. The matter was forwarded by the university to the Texas Office of the Attorney General for review, and a decision is pending.

Steve Delsohn is a reporter in ESPN's Enterprise Unit.