The NCAA scrutiny of LSU has expanded to include the football program, as the school confirmed on Friday afternoon that it has been working with the NCAA about an “ongoing inquiry” into a six-figure payment to the father of a former player.
An LSU booster named John Paul Funes, who pleaded guilty to stealing more than a half-million dollars from a foundation where he worked as a fundraiser, paid $180,000 to a man that Yahoo Sports confirmed on Friday is the father of former Tigers star lineman Vadal Alexander.
In federal documents, a man identified as “individual C” allegedly received “approximately $180,000 in Foundation Funds” from Funes. That man is James Alexander, the father of Vadal Alexander. His identity was first reported Thursday by the Baton Rouge Business Report.
Funes’ lawyer, Walt Green, declined comment to Yahoo Sports when asked explicitly whether he or his client had heard from the NCAA.
An LSU spokesman said in a statement that LSU has been engaged with the NCAA about the “ongoing inquiry” regarding the scheme. LSU has known about the alleged payment since 2018, but the NCAA has been limited in its investigative ability as to not interfere with Funes’ case. (This is similar to why the NCAA has been slow to react in the wake of the federal basketball corruption scandals.)
The emergence of this information from a federal case comes at a vexing time for LSU, which was already under significant NCAA scrutiny for activity within its men’s basketball program.
The Funes news comes amid an ongoing NCAA inquiry into the men’s basketball program. Coach Will Wade was suspended for more than a month earlier this year for not meeting with the school after a Yahoo Sports report detailed an FBI-intercepted call between Wade and aspiring agent Christian Dawkins. In the call, Wade expressed frustration about his inability to close what he described as a "strong-ass offer" for a recruit.
Wade missed LSU’s final regular season game, the SEC tournament and NCAA tournament in the wake of the Yahoo report. He’s since been reinstated, and his future at the school is one of the biggest storylines of the college basketball offseason.
This latest news appears to place LSU further in the NCAA’s crosshairs. Alexander’s father allegedly was the recipient of funds Funes embezzled from Our Lady of the Lake Foundation, where he was president. The foundation supports Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Hospital.
Funes entered a guilty plea Thursday to one count of money laundering and one count of wire fraud for having stolen at least $550,000 from the foundation.
“LSU was made aware of specific allegations by Our Lady of the Lake officials in late 2018 and made that information immediately available to the NCAA,” said LSU senior associate athletic director, Robert Munson. “As this is an ongoing inquiry, LSU will have no further comment at this time.”
Funes also was charged with funneling money to the family of former LSU quarterback Rohan Davey — a legal issue but likely not an NCAA problem for the school since it was well after Davey played for the Tigers. His senior season was in 2001.
Funes was the head of the OLOL Foundation until last November. He follows many people formerly and currently associated with LSU sports on Twitter, and was close enough to the football program to have been on the sideline during a game in 2014 at Florida.
Wade eventually met with both school and NCAA officials and was reinstated by LSU in April. At SEC spring meetings in late May, he offered no explanation for the contents of the FBI wiretap.
“It’s a good question,” Wade said. “I can’t get into the specifics of everything, like I was saying earlier, but I can assure in my meetings with LSU and the NCAA I’ve addressed all the media reports, everything that has been reported, and that ultimately led to my reinstatement. But I can’t get into the specifics based on the confidentiality of that meeting.”
Wade also was on another FBI wiretap that was introduced as part of the first of two federal trials in the Southern District of New York’s investigation of corruption in college basketball. In that trial, a conversation with Dawkins included discussion of recruiting another prospect.
The emergence of the payment to Alexander’s father further complicates the fledgling tenure of Woodward, who started his job in April amid the Wade scandal.
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