Fired NCCU football coach fights back
Henry Frazier III, who was fired as N.C. Central coach, has taken the proverbial football from his former employer, retaining high-profile lawyer Linda Kenney Baden with the idea of creating the space that will allow his return to the sideline for the Eagles.
“He’s trying to get his job back,” Baden said.
Baden, based in New York, said NCCU chancellor Debra Saunders-White is aware that Frazier is appealing his termination. If Saunders-White denies the appeal, then Frazier’s legal team is prepared for further action, Baden said.
“We hope that they reverse themselves, obviously,” Baden said. “But if we have to go to court, we will.”
Baden has worked with the late Johnnie Cochran, the attorney who represented former NFL running back O.J. Simpson during his murder trial. She defended music producer Phil Spector during his first murder trial that resulted in a hung jury in Los Angeles. Baden provided legal counsel to former NBA big man Jayson Williams in both civil and criminal matters, and she’s been on the legal team for Casey Anthony, the Florida mother acquitted of murdering her daughter.
Frazier, a well-regarded coach among those who follow football at historically black colleges and universities, is not as famous as some of Baden’s past clients, but Baden said her expertise isn’t reserved solely for folks with huge names.
“I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to do justice,” Baden said.
Baden said an injustice happened last Thursday when NCCU athletics director Ingrid Wicker-McCree dismissed Frazier from his head-coaching duties at the school.
Wicker-McCree said Frazier’s personal problems regarding his ex-wife had become too much of a distraction for the university.
Last summer, Frazier was suspended with pay after Morrisville police arrested him for allegedly assaulting Lanier Turner-Frazier, his wife at the time, but the two since then have divorced.
Frazier later pleaded guilty to assaulting Turner-Frazier and was reinstated as head coach less than two weeks before practice began for NCCU’s 2012 season.
But Frazier last Monday was arrested, again, for an alleged violation of a domestic violence protective order when he communicated with Turner-Frazier, prompting the firing.
NCCU spokeswoman Ayana Hernandez has pointed out a morals clause in Frazier’s contract that gave the university grounds to fire him if his conduct made the university look bad.
But Baden wanted to talk about the portion of Frazier’s contract stipulating that the university couldn’t fire him without proving that he actually did something wrong.
“That was drafted by the university, not by us,” Baden said. “The university has to wait to see whether he’s guilty.”
Wicker-McCree said cutting ties with Frazier was the best way to return the focus to NCCU’s students.
Yet Baden said that NCCU denying Frazier his due process was a bad move.
“That they would fire him pretty much just like that on the basis that it didn’t look good for them in the press is ridiculous. It’s terrible. It’s a terrible message to send our youth,” Baden said.
NCCU at least should have kept Frazier suspended with pay until the most-recent charge against him is addressed in a Wake County courtroom on Sept. 30, Baden said.
The bottom line is Frazier was allowed to communicate with his ex-wife, Baden said. The agreement that was in place to govern their relationship while they were separated no longer applies now that they’re divorced, she said.
Frazier also is represented by Durham lawyer Ralph Frasier Jr., who said his client never showed up at Turner-Frazier’s Cary residence where the violation supposedly occurred on Aug. 19. All Frazier did was send a note to Turner-Frazier explaining that he’d paid $205 for a parking ticket that either she or her biological daughter generated in Washington, D.C., Frasier said. Frazier indicated that he would deduct that money from his ex-wife’s alimony, and the note was delivered to Turner-Frazier by the former couple’s son, Frasier said.
No harm there, Baden said.
“You can’t have a restraining order when there is no threat, and this simply is not a threat,” Baden said.
There was no word out of NCCU on Thursday in response to a query about whether Wicker-McCree or Saunders-White would consider allowing Frazier to return to his old job.
NCCU interim head coach Dwayne Foster will lead the Eagles against Duke during the Bull City Gridiron Classic in Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday.