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Ole Miss hire of Chris Beard proves nothing except Rebels' unapologetic desperation | Toppmeyer

By Blake Toppmeyer, USA TODAY NETWORK,

2023-03-15
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OXFORD, Miss. — Given the chance to tell his side of the story about the night that cost him a job at his alma mater and altered his career, Chris Beard hid behind his ex-fiancée's statement.

Beard, in a news conference Tuesday after being introduced as Ole Miss basketball’s coach, initially claimed he’s waited for months to speak up following his December arrest on felony domestic violence allegations that preceded Texas firing its successful coach.

A Texas county district attorney dropped the charge against Beard last month, and the case was dismissed.

“The tough part of this has just been not being able to speak publicly,” Beard said.

OK, well, let’s talk about that night, the night Randi Trew called police and told them she “did not feel safe” after a days-long argument with Beard, her fiancé of three years, had become physical.

A police affidavit quoted Trew as saying Beard, while standing behind her, held his arm across her throat and impeded her breathing "for probably like five seconds."

On Tuesday, I asked Beard whether that happened.

Did he put his arm on Trew’s throat?

He declined to say.

“Randi and I have agreed not to talk about the details of not only that night but kind of the nights that we went through this process,” Beard said. “But what I can tell you is, much of what was reported was not accurate, and that’s been proven with the case not only being dismissed, charges dropped, but also, Randi’s statement on Dec. 23.”

Proof? There's no proof presented in this situation, as much as Beard or Ole Miss may like you to believe otherwise.

All I know for sure is Ole Miss is unapologetically desperate to have a winning basketball program, and the Rebels won the sprint to be first in line to offer Beard the platform to sportswash his sullied image.

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No amount of “very thorough” vetting, as Ole Miss athletics director Keith Carter described the hiring process, will change that two people were in Beard’s home on the night of his arrest.

One, Trew, called 911.

The other, Beard, won’t discuss the events of that night, at least not publicly.

Instead, Beard repeatedly pointed to Trew’s statement that she issued more than a week after Beard's arrest. In Trew's statement, she said Beard did not strangle her.

Beard noted on Tuesday that the prosecutor dismissed the case "in almost record time," about two months after his arrest.

I doubt Ole Miss will hang a banner inside The Pavilion celebrating that "record," and the circumstances surrounding Beard's arrest remain publicly murky.

The prosecutor, in dismissing the case, announced that a “felony offense cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt," and he cited Trew's wishes to not pursue prosecution. Trew, in her statement, she said she never wanted Beard to be arrested or prosecuted, and she shouldered blame for breaking Beard’s eyeglasses and sparking what she described as a “physical altercation."

“Chris has stated that he was acting in self-defense, and I do not refute that,” Trew said in that statement. “I do not believe Chris was trying to intentionally harm me.”

The word “intentionally” is carrying a lot of water.

Trew’s statement didn't address many of the other allegations that were included in the police affidavit. Police quoted Trew as saying Beard “snapped,” “became super violent” and went “nuts.”

“He choked me, threw me off the bed, bit me, bruises all over my leg,” police quoted Trew as saying.

Trew’s injuries included a bite mark, abrasions and bruises, according to the affidavit.

Did Beard injure Trew?

Once again, he wouldn’t say Tuesday.

“Randi and I respectfully have agreed not to comment on the details,” Beard said in response to a direct question about whether he caused Trew’s injuries. “What I’ll ask you again is, there was a timeframe of what was reported and then what was proven factual and not factual. Other statements were made and then ultimately the charges were dismissed.”

Trew was not present Tuesday. She and Beard are no longer engaged, a source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to the USA TODAY Network.

In our criminal justice system, a citizen enjoys the presumption of innocence. Beard wasn’t proven to have committed any crime. He wasn’t even prosecuted for one.

Hiring processes aren’t bound to the justice system’s standards.

Combine the ambiguity surrounding what occurred the night of Beard's arrest with the gravity of what he was accused of doing, and I wouldn’t hire Beard to mow my lawn.

Ole Miss didn’t need a landscaper. It needed a coach to revive its moribund basketball program. Beard is highly skilled at that.

This hire, this soon, reeks of Carter’s desperation to elevate a program that has five all-time NCAA Tournament wins.

“No one loves this program more than I do,” said Carter, a former All-America Ole Miss basketball player.

No one disputes that, but even if Beard wins here – and he’s won everywhere he’s coached – how long can that last?

Beard is an accomplished journeyman. From 2012-16, he worked five jobs in five years. He climbs the ladder, and he job-hops. He slipped away to Texas after a successful five-year run at Texas Tech elevated Beard’s profile.

Don’t be surprised if he parlays any Ole Miss success into an opportunity with a program of bluer blood.

“This next opportunity means everything to me,” Beard said.

It will mean everything to him, until his next opportunity.

After Texas hired Beard, he pledged he wouldn't “take this lightly” or “let anybody down.”

Less than two years later, Texas fired him for cause.

James Dean, UT’s vice president of legal affairs, labeled Beard’s behavior “unacceptable” and called him “unfit” to be the Longhorns' coach in a letter to Beard’s lawyer that outlined the coach’s dismissal.

Weeks later, Carter vetted Beard by speaking with "a lot of people," but he declined to specify with whom he spoke, including whether he spoke with Trew, the prosecutor who dismissed the charge or Austin, Texas, police.

While touting Ole Miss’ “due diligence," Carter acknowledged “people are going to believe what they’re going to believe.”

I believe Carter really wanted to hire this coach that, under normal circumstances, would not have been available to Ole Miss. Beard has the coaching chops to jumpstart a program Carter desperately wants to succeed.

Beyond that, it’s hard to know what to believe. Beard didn't attempt to provide any clarity.

Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at BToppmeyer@gannett.com and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer.

If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it. Also, check out his podcast, SEC Football Unfiltered, or access exclusive columns via the SEC Unfiltered newsletter.

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