LSU fires Wade, citing NCAA probe and ‘shroud of negativity’ | Sports News

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By BRETT MARTEL, AP Sports Journalist

LSU has fired men’s basketball coach Will Wade for cause amid “serious” allegations of NCAA violations, the university announced Saturday in a joint statement from its president and athletic director.

The dismissal comes the day after LSU rebounded from the Southeast Conference tournament by Arkansas, 79-67, in a quarterfinal game on Friday night.

“For more than four years, the University has patiently allowed the NCAA investigative process to unfold, working in conjunction with NCAA law enforcement personnel and, subsequently, the unit Complex Cases (CCU), to ensure that the evidence gathered was as complete and fair as possible. possible,” said the statement signed by Chairman William F. Tate and athletic director Scott Woodward. “Throughout this time, the University and its men’s basketball program have operated under a grueling veil of negativity.”

Last week, the Complex Cases Unit issued an official Notice of Allegations to LSU, which “contains serious allegations, including multiple charges alleging Coach Wade’s personal involvement in — or knowledge of — a Level I foul,” the LSU statement read. “We can no longer subject our university, our athletics department and, above all, our student-athletes to this trying and already long process without taking action. Our responsibility to protect and promote the integrity and well-being of our entire institution and our student-athletes will always be paramount.

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Level I violations may include a head coach’s lack of oversight over compliance matters; refusal to cooperate with an NCAA investigation; unethical or dishonest conduct; or cash or similar benefits denied to recruits.

LSU’s statement, however, emphasized that Wade’s dismissal was “not an acknowledgment of agreement with any of the allegations. The University will determine its positions on the allegations after a full and objective review of the relevant facts.

The university also fired associate head coach Bill Armstrong and named assistant coach Kevin Nickelberry as interim head coach. LSU has gone 22-11 this season (9-9 in the SEC) and could receive an offer for a postseason national tournament.

Suspicions of wrongdoing have followed Wade since 2019, with reports of leaked excerpts from an FBI wiretap that captured Wade speaking with a person convicted of routing illegal payments to the families of college basketball rookies.

In transcripts of the phone call, Wade discussed making a “strong” offer to an apparent third party who represented then-LSU player Javonte Smart, who has since turned pro.

Wade was suspended for LSU’s 2019 regular season finale and playoffs before being reinstated later this spring with an amended contract that stated LSU could fire him for cause if it turns out that he had committed serious NCAA violations.

It was unclear from leaked transcripts if Smart himself knew about the offer, and after being held for LSU’s regular season finale, Smart was cleared to play in SEC tournaments. and NCAA. Wade, meanwhile, was replaced for the regular season finale and interim playoffs by assistant Tony Benford.

Wade, 39, was hired by LSU in 2017 after a successful two-year stint at VCU. He went 105-51 at LSU (not counting the games he was suspended in in 2019).

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