BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - LSU announced Friday that basketball head coach Will Wade has been suspended indefinitely.
President and chancellor F. King Alexander and athletics director Joe Alleva released the following joint statement:
“Recent media reports regarding Coach Will Wade are without question concerning to all of us. As such, we and university officials have taken deliberate and purposeful steps to fairly assess and adequately address this situation. As we have done since media reports first surfaced months ago, we are closely coordinating with the NCAA with every step. They have our full cooperation and we will continue to report to them all facts and information on this matter.
All of us at LSU share the obligation to protect the integrity of this institution, as such we have suspended Head Coach Will Wade indefinitely until such time as we can ensure full compliance with the NCAA, as well as institutional policies and standards. Assistant coach Tony Benford will assume the duties of interim head coach.”
Wade released a statement about the suspension Friday afternoon.
"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!"
According to a source, Wade was asked to come in and speak to LSU top-ranking officials on the allegations but Wade declined to do so. Alleva and the university reportedly felt they were then left with no choice but to suspend Wade.
Wade also did NOT address the LSU basketball team following his suspension, according to the source.
Clearly, the future of LSU basketball is in serious doubt. School officials said they had been in communication with the NCAA for months.
The suspension came on the eve of LSU’s final regular season game that could give the Tigers an SEC championship with a win over Vanderbilt. This team is on pace to have the kind of season paralleling the Final Four teams of John Brady and Dale Brown.
“I’m really kind of heartbroken because I was so excited about our team and our success, and my heart goes out to the players more than anything,” said former LSU basketball star Durand “Rudy” Macklin. "They have to deal with that hanging over their heads and having to play. It’s going to be a tough thing. But there’s so many questions out there. What comes next? I’m more concerned about what happens on the road. If he resigns or if he’s fired, what’s going to happen to our university in terms of recruiting? What’s going to happen as far as the program as a whole? Can we bounce back from that?”
“If there is a shred of innocence here, on any level, if you’re being tried in the court of public opinion, the first and foremost thing he should want to do is be transparent - not just with his bosses but with everyone,” said Tim Brando, former WAFB sports anchor/reporter and current FOX Sports play-by-play announcer. “That’s what I’d recommend. If you’re not saying anything, all that tells people from the outside looking in is he’s protecting his flank and doesn’t want to get himself in further trouble for fear of what might be happening, from a legal point of view from now on in his career.”
“This is kind of heartbreaking, especially for the guys that have been playing,” said former LSU basketball star Darrel Mitchell. “It has that same vibe that we had in 2006. The way the guys are playing together, the way they get along, the way they’re just finding ways to win. It’s like a cycle of ... I just feel like it’s a little hump in the road, but I think it all will ... it’s basically a reason for them to play harder and make things happen and if he isn’t able to coach right away, find a way to get things done just for him.”
With the suspension of Wade, LSU has announced his top assistant, Tony Benford, will assume the role of interim head coach. Benford does have head coaching experience. He took over at North Texas when LSU hired wade’s predecessor, Johnny Jones, a Tigers’ teammate of Macklin on the 1981 Final Four team. Benford will be in charge on the bench when LSU plays Vanderbilt at the PMAC Saturday night.
There have been 10 other schools around the country mentioned over the course of the FBI probe, including Arizona, Auburn, Kansas, and Louisville.
“They’re asking me how does it look. It looks as though the university is saying from the outside in, guilty as charged. That’s the appearance when you have a suspension like this. But if Will was not willing to be transparent and discuss matters with his bosses, I see no other option for them but to suspend him. This is not an investigative process from the NCAA on LSU at this stage. But it could become that and the university’s officials have to be cognizant of that and it’s their jobs to protect LSU from such a matter. So that part of it I get,” Brando added.
SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey also released a statement following the suspension:
“I support the action of LSU in its suspension of head men’s basketball coach Will Wade. The information in recent news reports is very disturbing, if true. Considering the existing circumstances, LSU has taken appropriate action today while the investigation continues. The SEC serves in an advisory role with our institutions in NCAA compliance issues and the Conference Office will continue to assist LSU as it moves forward in this matter.”
The FBI recorded a conversation between Wade and “recruiting middleman” Christian Dawkins, according to report by Yahoo.com released Thursday.
The report stated on the call, Wade was frustrated with Dawkins because a recruit had yet to accept an “offer”:
“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.”
“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 has been on several FBI wiretaps between the spring and summer of 2017.
He received a six-month sentence for his part in a pay-to-play scandal.