LSU reinstates men's basketball coach Will Wade

LSU head coach Will Wade during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Florida in Gainesville, Fla., Wednesday, March 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)
LSU head coach Will Wade during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Florida in Gainesville, Fla., Wednesday, March 6, 2019. (AP Photo/Gary McCullough)

LSU announced Sunday night that it has reinstated suspended basketball coach Will Wade, two days after he met with school and NCAA officials.

LSU athletic director Joe Alleva released a statement that said Wade "answered all questions and denied any wrongdoing in connection with recently reported allegations of irregularities in college basketball recruiting. … Coach Wade's explanations and clarifications offered during the meeting, absent actual evidence of misconduct, satisfy his contractual obligation to LSU. Accordingly, I have recommended that Coach Wade's suspension be lifted and that he should be allowed to resume his coaching responsibilities. President (F. King) Alexander has accepted this recommendation."

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Wade was suspended on March 8, the day after Yahoo Sports reported about a 2017 phone conversation intercepted by the FBI between Wade and basketball middleman Christian Dawkins. The wiretap features Wade speaking freely about a "strong-ass offer" he made in the recruitment of a prospect.

In the wake of that report, Wade refused to meet with LSU officials, prompting the suspension. He missed LSU's last regular-season game and all of its games in the Southeastern Conference and NCAA tournaments.

Wade also issued a statement, saying in part, "I regret the circumstances that prevented me from meeting with the University sooner. I wish I could have addressed these issues when the University first requested a meeting, and I'm grateful they gave me the opportunity to do so last week. I completely understand that without my denying or explaining the media reports accusing me of wrongdoing LSU was left with no choice but to suspend me until I was willing and able to meet with them. Any other course of action would have put the program and the University at risk."

Neither LSU nor Wade discussed any particulars about the meeting, which included members of NCAA Enforcement. It is unknown what answers Wade gave in explaining what he said on the wiretap.

Despite being reinstated, Wade appears to be far from finished with his involvement in the college basketball scandal. Wade and Arizona coach Sean Miller have been subpoenaed by defense attorneys to appear in the second of three federal trials of college basketball figures, which is scheduled to begin April 22 in New York. Federal prosecutors have filed a motion to keep the coaches from having to testify in that trial.

Beyond that, it is unclear where the NCAA inquiry into LSU and Wade stands. It likely would be in its beginning stages. NCAA Enforcement representatives told Yahoo Sports that they have been waiting for the feds to finish their work before fully launching what figures to be many investigations.

On part of the call reported last month, Wade discusses the recruitment of Javonte Smart, a guard from Baton Rouge, and expresses frustration that a third party involved in the recruitment — identified by Yahoo Sports as Baton Rouge basketball fixture Shannon Forman — had yet to accept Wade's "offer." Instead, a verbal commitment to LSU was being delayed because Wade theorized the third party hadn’t been given a big "enough piece of the pie in the deal" and instead "tilted" the offer toward the player and his mother.

"I was thinking last night on this Smart thing," Wade said. "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."

Dawkins is known to be on FBI wiretaps during the late spring and summer of 2017. ESPN, citing court records, previously reported that Dawkins had "at least three calls with a cellphone number belonging to LSU coach Will Wade, each of which occurred between June 19, 2017, and June 30, 2017." Smart announced his commitment to LSU via Twitter on June 30, 2017.

"Dude," Wade continued to Dawkins, referring to the third party involved in the recruitment, "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," Wade continued. "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."

Dawkins responded by saying, "Hmmmm."

"It was a [expletive] hell of a [expletive] offer," Wade continued. "Hell of an offer."

"OK," Dawkins said.

"Especially for a kid who is going to be a two- or three-year kid," Wade said.

Smart may turn out to be a one-year collegian, having declared for the NBA draft last week after his freshman season. He also could still return to school.

The wiretap reported last month is not the only one involving Wade to surface during the federal investigation of college basketball. At the first of three trials last October, one of the defense attorneys read a transcript from another call between Wade and Dawkins.

On that call, the LSU coach and Dawkins discuss the possible recruitment of Balsa Koprivica, a center who played in Florida and was one of the top players in the Class of 2019.

"[Wade] is communicating to Christian Dawkins that he can get him what he needs – meaning money – if a player in Florida, Balsa Koprivica, agrees to play for LSU," said Casey Donnelly, one of Jim Gatto's attorneys. (Gatto is a former Adidas executive who was found guilty in October during the college basketball corruption trial in federal court.)

Donnelly then read a portion of the transcript of the call.

"Would you want Balsa?" Dawkins asked.

"Oh, the big kid?" Wade responded.

Dawkins confirms.

"OK, but there is other [expletive] involved in it," Wade said. "Wait, I've got to shut the door … I can get you what you need but it's got to work."

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