A judge refused Monday to overturn an East Baton Rouge Parish jury’s May 6 decision to award nearly $600,000 to former Grambling State University football coach Melvin Spears Jr.
The jury found the school breached Spears’ contract when it fired him in December 2006.
State District Judge Wilson Fields denied Grambling’s request for a new trial.
At the request of Spears’ attorneys, Fields also tacked on another $43,000 in penalty wages to the jury award.
“His ruling today upholds the intent of the jury,’’ said Jeffrey Cody, one of Spears’ attorneys, after the court hearing.
GSU attorney Charles Tabor said the school can proceed with its appeal to the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal in Baton Rouge.
Spears was named Grambling’s interim head coach in 2004 after former coach Doug Williams took a front-office job with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Grambling went 6-5 in Spears’ initial season, 11-1 in 2005 and 3-8 in 2006.
The team won the Southwestern Athletic Conference and black college national titles in 2005.
Wade Shows, who also represents Spears, had argued to the jury that Spears was fired without cause, a violation of the five-year contract he signed in early 2005.
Spears sought to be paid for the final three years of his contract, which called for him to receive $156,000 annually, his lawsuit said.
GSU attorney John Madison Jr. argued to the jury that Spears was terminated for just cause because then-Grambling President Horace Judson had “had it up to here’’ with Spears.
Madison referred to an NCAA investigation into the Grambling football program while Spears was head coach.
In the fall 2007, the NCAA cleared Grambling of any significant wrongdoing in a wide-ranging probe that stretched over three football seasons.
The university was cited for five secondary offenses.
The NCAA determined the violations occurred within the football program in 2004-06, all during Spears’ tenure.
The jury voted unanimously to award Spears $449,500 for breach of employment contract, and added $11,000 in penalty wages and $139,000 in attorneys’ fees.
Cody argued Monday that Spears is entitled to $54,000 in penalty wages and Fields agreed, which added $43,000 to the jury award.
Spears is head football coach at Alcorn State University.