LSU coach Will Wade says he should be allowed to coach even if he refuses to sit down to discuss his relationship with convicted middleman Christian Dawkins until after the federal government concludes its investigation into college basketball corruption.
“Last week, when the University decided to place me on administrative leave, I accepted the decision without complaint as I knew that they wanted time to reflect on the flurry of media reports,” Wade said in a statement. “With the benefit of a week to consider the circumstances, I believe University officials should allow me to resume my duties.”
His request comes a day after a letter surfaced that was sent from Wade’s attorney, Michael G. McGovern in New York, to LSU chancellor F. King Alexander, athletic director Joe Alleva and others.
It said that “upon conclusion of the pending [Southern District of New York] criminal investigation, Coach Wade will be happy to meet with you and LSU’s Board of Supervisors and to answer any and all questions you may have.”
Wade’s unwillingness to discuss what he said to Dawkins in telephone calls that were intercepted by FBI wiretaps likely means he won’t coach in this week’s SEC tournament or any of the No. 9 Tigers’ games in the upcoming NCAA tournament.
LSU confirmed as much in a statement from its vice president for legal affairs and general counsel.
“Coach Will Wade has yet to deny any wrongdoing to us or publicly,” Thomas Skinner said. “Absent that, the university is in a very difficult position with regard to compliance with NCAA requirements, and until Coach Wade talks to university administration about this, he remains suspended. There is a standing offer for him and his attorneys to meet with LSU officials.”
LSU officials suspended Wade and named Tony Benford interim coach on Friday after Wade refused to discuss published reports about his involvement in alleged pay-for-play deals.
“In this case, the simple truth is I have been placed on leave because I exercised my right not to submit to a joint LSU/NCAA interview on the exact same subject matter at issue in an impending federal criminal trial in New York,” Wade said in the statement. “My legal counsel advised the University that it would be wholly inappropriate for me, or anyone, to submit to an interview under these circumstances.”
Last week, ESPN and Yahoo Sports reported that in one of the phone calls intercepted by FBI wiretaps, Wade expressed frustration about his inability to close what he described as a “strong-ass offer” for a recruit.
According to people familiar with the calls, Wade was frustrated with a handler of current LSU guard Javonte Smart, who was then a top-50 recruit from Baton Rouge.
Smart didn’t play in LSU’s 80-59 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday night that clinched the SEC regular-season title for the Tigers. His status for the postseason remains unclear.
“I was thinking last night on this Smart thing,” Wade told Dawkins during one of the calls. “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 s—. Like, this should not be that [expletive] complicated.”
“Dude,” Wade continued during the call, “I went to [the handler] 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. 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.
“It was a [expletive] hell of a [expletive] offer. Hell of an offer. … Especially for a kid who is going to be a two- or three-year kid.”
In a different telephone call with Dawkins, Wade joked that the player would be compensated more than the “rookie minimum.”
Wade told Dawkins that he had made deals for “as good of players as him” that were “a lot simpler than this.”
Steven Haney, Dawkins’ attorney, told ESPN that he plans to subpoena Wade, Arizona’s Sean Miller and possibly other coaches to testify in an April 22 federal criminal trial in New York. Dawkins and former Adidas consultant Merl Code are accused of bribing assistant coaches to influence their players to sign with Dawkins’ fledgling sports agency once they turned pro.
“Declining to be interviewed was a difficult decision for me, as I would like to cooperate fully with all parties, particularly LSU,” Wade concluded in his statement. “To be clear, however, all I’ve done is follow the prudent advice of counsel to exercise my constitutional rights to due process. Given these facts, I don’t believe it is appropriate for me to be relieved of my duties.
“We have a great basketball program made up of excellent student athletes and quality coaches. The players who’ve given their all for this institution, the students and alumni who are devoted to LSU, and fans all across Louisiana and beyond deserve to see this team fulfill its destiny. I love LSU and everything it stands for. What I’m asking for is the right to do my job while exercising my constitutional rights. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.”