LSU has suspended head basketball coach Will Wade after an FBI wiretap was released in which he reportedly appeared to be making an unspecified offer during recruiting in 2017.
University president F. King Alexander and athletic director Joe Alleva announced Wade’s suspension Friday, and assistant coach Tony Benford will take over on an interim basis:
In a text message sent to Amie Just of the Times-Picayune, Wade said there is more to the story that he is unable to talk about right now:
“Serving as the Head Basketball Coach at LSU has been the honor of my life. I love this university and all it stands for. From day one, I’ve been focused on building a winning program made up of excellent coaches and staff and a team of first-rate student athletes.
“I cannot comment at this time on various media reports, except to say that they do not begin to tell the full story. I understand the University had to take action before all the facts are in, but I would ask everyone to withhold their judgment until the record is complete.
“To my players and coaches, I support you 100%, and I will be with you in spirit as the season progresses. Your best response to this is to narrow your focus and make sure the last part of the season is the strongest part!”
Per Pat Forde, Pete Thamel and Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports, the FBI intercepted a telephone conversation between Wade and Christian Dawkins discussing a “strong-ass offer” made during recruiting two years ago:
“Dude, I went to him with a [expletive] strong-ass offer about a month ago. [Expletive] strong.
“The problem was, I know why he didn’t take it now, it was [expletive] tilted toward the family a little bit. It was tilted toward taking care of the mom, taking care of the kid. Like it was tilted towards that. Now I know for a fact he didn’t explain everything to the mom. I know now, he didn’t get enough of the piece of the pie in the deal.”
The report also notes Wade could be heard conveying frustration because “a third party affiliated with the recruitment had yet to accept Wade’s ‘offer.'”
Dawkins, considered a “basketball middleman with deep connections to grassroots hoops,” Adidas executive James Gatto and Adidas consultant Merl Code were all convicted and sentenced to prison for their roles in an FBI probe into bribery and corruption in the NCAA.
Gatto received a nine-month sentence; Code and Dawkins both received six months, per Larry Neumeister of the Associated Press.
In September 2017, the FBI announced 10 arrests as part of a two-year investigation, including four assistant coaches—Anthony Bland (USC), Chuck Person (Auburn), Emanuel Richardson (Arizona) and Lamont Evans (Oklahoma State).
Forde and Thamel reported in February 2018 FBI documents and bank records showed at least 20 Division I basketball programs and more than 20 players were involved in the pay-for-play recruiting scandal.
Wade was hired by LSU in March 2017 after spending the previous two seasons at VCU. The 36-year-old has a 43-20 record in two seasons with the Tigers, including a 25-5 mark in 2018-19.
LSU will finish the regular season Saturday against Vanderbilt before playing in the SEC tournament, starting March 13.