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
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
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
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."