L.S.U. Reinstates Coach Implicated in Recruiting Scandal
Louisiana State announced Sunday that it had lifted a monthlong suspension of its head basketball coach, Will Wade, over suspicions of his involvement in the ring of recruiting corruption that was first revealed by federal prosecutors in 2017.
The university’s athletic director, Joe Alleva, said that Wade had met Friday with officials from both Louisiana State and the N.C.A.A. Those meetings came after more than a month of silence following the revelation that Wade had made damning remarks, to the effect that he had made an “offer” to a recruit, on a phone call to a recruiting middleman who has since been convicted of fraud.
“He answered all questions and denied any wrongdoing,” Alleva said of Wade in a statement.
“Coach Wade’s explanations and clarifications offered during the meeting, absent actual evidence of misconduct, satisfy his contractual obligation to L.S.U.,” Alleva added, saying that he had recommended Wade’s reinstatement to F. King Alexander, the university president, who had agreed to lift the suspension.
In the statement, Wade said, “I completely understand that without my denying or explaining the media reports accusing me of wrongdoing L.S.U. was left with no choice but to suspend me until I was willing and able to meet with them.”
The reinstatement comes just weeks after the Tigers made the N.C.A.A. tournament’s regional semifinals, the program’s first appearance in the second weekend in more than a decade. The team lost to Michigan State, the eventual national semifinalist.
It also comes only weeks before a second trial stemming from the federal charges is scheduled to begin in federal court in Manhattan. The middleman from the phone call, Christian Dawkins, convicted of fraud after the first trial, is also a defendant in that case, and his lawyer has pledged to try to put coaches on the witness stand.
During the phone call, which was first reported by Yahoo Sports and later confirmed by a source with knowledge of the tape, Wade said he had made a strong offer to one recruit, who had not yet committed because someone else in his life was not getting “enough piece of the pie in the deal.”
The statement from Alleva, Louisiana State’s athletic director, appeared to resist a full-on endorsement of Wade, 36, whose second season in Baton Rouge ended successfully, albeit without him on the bench.
“The university regrets that Coach Wade did not choose to fulfill his obligations to L.S.U. when he was first asked to do so,” Alleva said. “However, the seriousness of the allegations and Coach Wade’s prior refusal to refute them could not be ignored without exposing the university and the basketball program to great risk.”
Alleva added, “Protecting L.S.U. and preserving our integrity must always be our first priority.”
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