Daily Texan ‘Inappropriate Relationship’ Records Request Breaks 4-Year-Old Football Story

The Daily Texan is making a definite play for student newspaper of the year. Building off its already impressive editorial work– and increasing online awesomeness– the campus pub at the University of Texas at Austin is showing some serious public records muscle with its latest scoop.

At the start of the month, the Texan filed a records request with the university focused on “the keyword ‘inappropriate relationship’ or ‘inappropriate conduct.'”  It revealed an official letter sent from the athletics director to the football team’s running backs coach Major Applewhite after the 2009 Fiesta Bowl reprimanding Applewhite for “conduct . . . [that] was inappropriate and falls below the standards we expect of our coaches and staff.”

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Hmm.  The paper posted the letter online.  Oodles of visitors followed, causing the Texan site to crash (!).  Soon after, the athletics director and Applewhite– now the team’s offensive coordinator– released statements addressing the conduct.  As Applewhite admitted, “Several years ago, I made a regretful decision resulting in behavior that was totally inappropriate.  It was a one-time occurrence and was a personal matter. . . . This is and was resolved four years ago with the university.”

The chairman of the university’s board of regents also released a statement and called a special board meeting, beginning “a concentrated effort to review all policies concerning relationships between UT employees and students.”

In the end, everything traces back to the Texan’s “inappropriate” reporting. Managing editor Trey Scott: “Instead of just covering events and things around campus, we really wanted to start to try to be a player in the Austin news scene. . . . What we did maybe is going to spur some action from the athletic department and the University of Texas systems going forward, which of course, is a good thing.”

In an email to me this morning, the paper’s editorial adviser Doug Warren added: “The Texan staff has really stepped up its game this year covering– and breaking– big stories with national implications.  The students have also embraced the Internet and social media as a delivery system and it shows in the website.  And all of this comes as we face the challenge of reimagining the Texan’s future.”  [See first related link below for more on the latter.]

Related

Report: Daily Texan Loses $225,000 So Far This Year, a ‘Shell of its Former Cash-Generating’ Self

Daily Texan Reporter Reflects on Covering Fisher v. Texas Supreme Court Case

Daily Texan Newsstands Not Allowed at Journalism School Due to ‘Environmental Concerns’

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