Frazier's firing puts NCCU in spotlight
N.C. Central gets to test the notion that all publicity is good publicity.
During an on-campus news conference on Thursday, NCCU athletics director Ingrid Wicker-McCree announced that Henry Frazier III had been relieved of his head coaching duties with the football team, the result of his arrest on Monday for violating the domestic violence protective order that governs his relationship with his former wife, Lanier Turner-Frazier.
Frazier initially was suspended as NCCU’s coach, as he was a year ago after police charged him with assaulting Turner-Frazier at their Morrisville home. The couple now is divorced.
Wicker-McCree explained that Frazier’s personal issues were distracting school personnel from focusing on student-athletes. Cutting ties with Frazier and establishing NCCU assistant head coach Dwayne Foster as the team’s interim head coach would allow the players to get the attention they deserve, she said.
On Saturday, NCCU will drop in at Duke’s Wallace Wade Stadium for the Bull City Gridiron Classic, the season opener for both teams.
“We’re going to prepare for Duke,” Foster said during the news conference.
It’s a big deal for NCCU, a relatively new Division I Football Championship Subdivision program with an opportunity to play on a larger stage.
“This is a nationally televised game on ESPN3,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “It’s a chance to display Durham, as well as both institutions.”
That display likely will include discussion of Frazier’s firing during both pregame talk and in-game discussion from TV commentators and others in the media.
Promotional spots on radio station 99.9 FM have been spreading the word about the Eagles’ Sept. 7 home opener against St. Augustine’s, juxtaposing both good and bad publicity.
Roughly two and a half hours before Frazier’s firing was announced, Cutcliffe said it wasn’t his place to comment on the coaching situation at NCCU.
Although Frazier pleaded guilty to the 2012 assault charge, his lawyer, Ralph Frasier Jr., said Monday’s charge is way out of context.
Frazier has a Sept. 30 court date in Wake County to deal with his supposed violation of the protective order, alleged to have occurred at his ex-wife’s Cary residence.
Wicker-McCree neither altogether endorsed nor completely denied that Frazier was fired in an attempt to manage NCCU’s image, instead explaining that a university policy allows school leaders to act in the best interest of the institution before legal proceedings.
Here is the morals clause from Frazier’s contract that gave NCCU grounds to dismiss him: “Any conduct by Coach which constitutes moral turpitude, which would constitute a criminal offense under North Carolina law, or which would tend to bring public disrespect, contempt or ridicule upon the University. Any discipline under this subsection shall not violate the due process rights of Coach to defend himself against false and/or malicious prosecution or accusations; ...”
Frazier arrived at NCCU from Prairie View A&M in Texas in Dec. 2010, receiving a five-year contract worth $225,000 annually. His firing apparently voided the final two years of the deal.
“Coach Frazier is not entitled to severance,” NCCU spokeswoman Ayana Hernandez said.
A year ago when Frazier was reinstated after pleading guilty to assaulting Turner-Frazier, NCCU’s views on the treatment of women were second-guessed.
Wicker-McCree was asked if Frazier’s firing had anything to do with the selection earlier this year of Debra Saunders-White as NCCU’s first permanent female chancellor.
Saunders-White, who attended Thursday’s news conference, strode to the podium and said: “This is a question of leadership. First, I want to applaud Dr. Ingrid Wicker-McCree in her decision. I will tell you that as the first permanent female chancellor, my responsibility is to all students, particularly our student-athletes and, at this time, our program and to our institution.”
After the Duke game, NCCU will have two more nationally televised contests this season. Both are Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference matchups at NCCU’s O’Kelly-Riddick Stadium, an Oct. 10 meeting with S.C. State (ESPNU) and a Nov. 2 game against reigning MEAC champion Bethune-Cookman (ESPNews).
As news cycles go, NCCU would be a solid month removed from Frazier’s firing by the time S.C. State heads to Durham.
But Frasier, the lawyer, said that all options are being explored regarding his client, potentially keeping NCCU and Frazier together in the news.