Although noting “regrets” that LSU men’s basketball coach Will Wade didn’t comply with the school several weeks ago when asked about recruiting issues, athletic director Joe Alleva announced in a statement Sunday that Wade’s month-plus suspension has been lifted.
The university suspended Wade on March 8 because it said he refused to meet with school officials amid scrutiny of a reported FBI wiretap capturing the coach talking about an offer to then-recruit Javonte Smart. Wade missed the Tigers’ final regular-season game and all of their SEC and NCAA Tournament games.
Assistant coach Tony Benford took over as head coach and led LSU to the SEC regular-season title with a win over Vanderbilt in his first game, then led the Tigers to the Sweet 16, where they lost to Michigan State.
Wade was reinstated after he met with Alleva and NCAA compliance officials on Friday, Alleva said in the statement, adding that he saw no place where Wade violated his contract, allowing for his reinstatement.
“During those meetings, he answered all questions and denied any wrongdoing in connection with recently reported allegations of irregularities in college basketball recruiting,” Alleva said.
The statement also said the university “regrets that Coach Wade did not choose to fulfill his obligations to LSU when he was first asked to do so. However, the seriousness of the allegations and Coach Wade’s prior refusal to refute them could not be ignored without exposing the University and basketball program to great risk. Protecting LSU and preserving our integrity must always be our first priority. Coach Wade’s explanations and clarifications offered during the meeting, absent actual evidence of misconduct, satisfy his contractual obligation to LSU.”
The alleged offer to Smart arose in a conversation Wade was having with Christian Dawkins, described as a middleman in the scandal of paying basketball recruits. Dawkins was convicted on felony charges of wire fraud last year and sentenced last month to six months in prison. The specifics of that case were unrelated to Dawkins’ reported interaction with Wade.
ESPN and Yahoo Sports reported last month that a wiretap caught Wade upset about not landing Smart at that point despite a “strong-ass offer.” CBS Sports described Smart as a top-50 recruit from Baton Rouge. He ultimately signed with the Tigers.
“I was thinking last night on this Smart thing,” Wade reportedly said to Dawkins on the wiretap. “I’ll be honest with you, I’m (expletive) tired of dealing with the thing. Like I’m just (expletive) sick of dealing with the (expletive). Like, this should not be that (expletive) complicated.”
—Field Level Media