The likely end to Will Wade's LSU career is his own fault
Will Wade won’t be coaching LSU in the SEC Tournament.
And rightfully so.
Presumably he won’t be coaching the No. 9-ranked Tigers in the NCAA Tournament either.
And rightfully so.
Whether he ever coaches LSU again is uncertain but unlikely.
In fact Wade is acting like not only a person who’s guilty of serious NCAA violations, but also someone who has set fire to the bridge that could lead him back to the Tigers’ bench.
Perhaps the suspended coach hasn’t done anything wrong. Perhaps there is an innocent explanation for why the FBI has him on tape talking to a “recruiting broker” and apparently bemoaning the fact that Javonte Smart, who later signed with LSU, had turned down a “strong-ass offer” from Wade, as the coach put it.
But if there’s an innocent explanation for that, I can’t for the life of me think of what it could be.
Wade needs to clear this up, but he won’t do it. Not even to his bosses, in private.
But eventually he’ll have to speak.
In fact, he’s expected to testify under subpoena in a trial involving the broker in question, Christian Dawkins, which begins next month.
When the story of Wade’s conversation, which the FBI captured during a wire-tap as part of its investigation into Dawkins, broke a week ago, LSU offered Wade an opportunity to explain the seemingly damning conversation to university officials.
Wade declined the opportunity and has since said he did so on the advice of his attorney because the NCAA was scheduled to participate in the meeting.
When Wade refused his bosses’ request to explain his suspect behavior, the university had no viable choice but to suspend him, which it did lickety-split.
Wade’s reluctance to discuss his plight within earshot of the NCAA, which could put an end to his college coaching career if it deems his actions deserving of such, is understandable.
But, according to The Advocate newspaper, Wade’s contract with the university includes a clause that requires him to cooperate “fully in any investigation of possible NCAA or SEC violations conducted or authorized by LSU, the SEC, or the NCAA at any time.”
LSU is investigating Smart’s role, if any, in the controversy. Smart was suspended for the Tigers’ regular-season finale against Vanderbilt last Saturday, in which LSU, under the guidance of interim coach Tony Benford, clinched the SEC regular-season championship.
The university announced hours before tipoff Friday that Smart would play against Florida in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals.
LSU, understandably, has been considering the potential NCAA implications of each step it takes in handling the mess Wade allegedly has created.
Allowing Wade to continue to coach after the contents of the taped conversation were made public and/or allowing Smart to continue playing without investigating whether he received an improper “offer” to attend the university could easily constitute a lack of institutional control by the university over its men’s basketball program. LSU said Friday that “to date” it cleared Smart of any wrongdoing but the inquiry is ongoing.
Of course there’s concern because that could increase potential NCAA sanctions, but it also would represent the university administration’s abdication of its responsibility regardless of NCAA considerations.
Wade twice has issued statements. In neither instance has he ever proclaimed his innocence.
He took the arrogant step Thursday of publicly requesting that the university reinstate him – without him explaining himself – so that he could coach the Tigers in the SEC Tournament.
LSU did not consider that a strong-ass offer.
Wade noted in the statement the difficulty for LSU to “stand firm in the face of rumors, leaks and innuendo,” failing to note that the “rumors, leaks and innuendo” came in the form of him bemoaning a recruit’s reluctance to accept Wade’s offer that presumably violated NCAA rules.
The coach said he “exercised my right not to submit” to the meeting with school officials, ignoring the fact that he signed a contract requiring him to do exactly that.
Wade is responsible for one of the more impressive turnarounds in college basketball. He’s also responsible for legitimate questioning of whether that turnaround was done legitimately.
He is neither a martyr, nor a victim.
LSU put an end to Will Wade’s season.
But it looks like Wade will be the one to put an end to his LSU career.