Appeals Court Favors Grambling State in Former Football Coach’s Suit

The First Circuit Court of Appeal of Louisiana has ruled that Grambling State University had just cause to fire football coach Melvin Spears and reduced the amount of money he had been awarded as a result of winning his lawsuit.

Spears’ compensation was reduced from $449,500 to $28,088 as the court found that he was entitled to salary based on 60 days’ notice of termination and not the remaining three years he had left on his contract. The penalty wages for not having been given 60 days’ notice was reduced from $54,000.00 to $38,466.00, based on a recalculation of his base salary. The court also reduced the $139,000 Spears received for legal fees to $34,500 as the expense was undocumented and “the legal issues involved in this case were not unduly complex.”

Spears, who received his letter of termination in December 2006, claimed that the school fired him without cause and intentionally damaged his reputation by making false statements about him.

The school countered that Spears wrongfully administered drug tests to some of his football players, renamed a training room without getting permission, sparked an NCAA investigation of the program and subjected Grambling to national criticism for his “insensitive public comments” about Alcorn State’s request to reschedule a game against Grambling in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

The appellate judges ruled that: “A thorough review of the record reveals that Mr. Spears was insubordinate to Dr. (Horace) Judson, in his position as President of Grambling, made public comments that impugned the reputation of Grambling and generated unfavorable publicity, and caused the University to be investigated by the NCAA.