For an accidental coach, Beverly Kearney’s success seems almost preordained.
Kearney, a national-class sprinter at Auburn, was working three jobs in Southern California in the early 1980s when she decided she’d better go back to school and get her master’s degree.
She enrolled at Indiana State and moonlighted as a graduate assistant coach on the Sycamores’ track & field team. Her career took off like a rocket. In 1982, at age 24, she was named the head women’s track coach at Toledo. Two years later, she took a job as an assistant at Tennessee, where she worked as the top assistant from 1984-86. She was named the head women’s coach at Florida at age 29 and took the same position five years later at Texas.
In leading Florida to the NCAA indoor championship in 1992, Kearney became the first female African American track & field coach, and just the third black head coach ever, to win a Division I title in any sport. In her 18 years overall as a head coach, Kearney has accumulated enough honors to last a lifetime: 35 Coach of the Year honors, 32 NCAA top-10 finishes, seven NCAA Championship titles, 35 NCAA individual champions, 18 relay national titles, and 21 conference team championships.
Kearney’s athletes – including Sanya Richards, Carlette Guidry, Marshevet Hooker, Destinee Hooker, Suziann Reid, Michelle Carter, and Erin Aldrich – have won a total of nine Olympic medals, 28 NCAA individual titles, and 22 NCAA relay titles. The Texas women have also won 19 conference titles during her tenure. She has guided Longhorn athletes to 280 All-America honors, and her pupils own collegiate records in the indoor 4x400m relay and indoor high jump.
In serving as the Division I coaches association president from 1995-97, Kearney became both the first female and the first female African-American to hold that position.
Kearney has received numerous honors for her achievements, including induction into the International Women’s Hall of Fame and the University of Texas Women’s Hall of Honor. She has also received the Giant Steps Award for achieving excellence in academics and athletics while having made significant contributions to the community, the Tempe Sports Authority’s Gene Autry Courage Award for men and women in sports who have demonstrated heroism in the face of difficulty or danger, and the Gary Bridwell Courage Award from the Dallas All Sports Foundation for her courageous battle to overcome traumatic injuries suffered in a 2002 automobile crash.
In 2003, Kearney was one of a select few track & field coaches featured in a special section entitled “What It Takes To Be A Champion,” which is on display in the National Track & Field Hall of Fame Museum at the Armory Track Center in New York. In the fall of 2001, Kearney was honored with a special exhibit at the George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center in Austin for her many achievements on and off the track.
And the honors just keep pouring in. In 2006, the Buiniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis recognized Kearney as a Sports Legend at the 21st Annual Great Sports Legend Dinner. Kearney also served as a guest panelist on Trinity Broadcasting Network’s (TBN) “Praise the Lord” hosted by gospel legend Cece Winans and the world’s only live Christian Talk Show. She was selected as the 2007 Honoree Woman of Distinction at the Seventh Annual H-E-B Annual luncheon. One month later, Kearney served as the honorary co-chair at the Girl Scouts-Lone Star Council’s Women of Distinction Luncheon.
Kearney is the founder of Pursuit of Dreams, a non-profit organization that develops mentoring relationships to help people achieve their mental, physical, and spiritual goals.