School says issue has been resolved

Updated: July 16, 2004, 12:10 AM ET
Associated Press

GRAMBLING, La. -- Grambling State's football coach, who went to Arizona last week to verify that he earned the master's degree listed on his resume, has done so, a spokesman said.

"I appreciate the president for letting me go out and get this straight," Melvin Spears said. "His message to me was to take it as a lesson learned -- to make sure I dot every i and cross every t."

University President Horace Judson had given Spears until Thursday to clear up questions about the degree.

"He's still Coach Spears. Everything's fine with him. ... Everything vis-a-vis his master's degree has been resolved," athletics spokesman Peter Forest said.

Forest said he did not know why Spears canceled a news conference an hour before it was supposed to take place Thursday.

A Northern Arizona University official said last week that Spears did all the work needed for the degree but failed to fill out minor paperwork to get his diploma.

Spears said both a family illness and the sudden opportunity to coach alongside Doug Williams at Grambling State contributed to his failure to finish the paperwork needed to get his degree.

"I knew I was finished," Spears said of his coursework. "I thought whether I filled out this information or not, they would still send me a diploma."

He went to Flagstaff, Ariz., last week to complete the paperwork after Judson found that his transcript did not match his resume.

William Wright, chair of Northern Arizona's department of research, foundations and leadership, called the discrepancy between Spears' resume and the school's records an unfortunate misunderstanding.

Spears was hired as offensive coordinator by Grambling coach Doug Williams in 1997, then took over as interim head coach when Williams left for the NFL in February. Spears' resume includes a master's in administrative leadership, part of which he studied for under Wright.

Wright said Spears had two big distractions soon after finishing his coursework: his grandfather died and he got the Grambling coaching job under Williams.

"It's not uncommon that someone would complete their degree requirements but not follow through with the necessary paperwork," Wright said. "In Spears' case, a person gets a promotion, there is illness in the family. He's a good man -- a good moral person. This was just a matter of paperwork."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press