LSU reinstated Will Wade as LSU’s men’s basketball coach on Sunday, April 14 following a five-week suspension related to Wade’s alleged conversations with convicted felon and basketball liaison Christian Dawkins.
Wade met with school officials on Friday, and the two sides resolved the matter of the 36-year-old’s suspension.
“The LSU Athletics Department today agreed to reinstate Will Wade as head coach of the Tiger basketball program," said LSU Athletics Director and Vice Chancellor Joe Alleva in a news release. "Coach Wade met Friday with University and NCAA officials. During those meetings, he answered all questions and denied any wrongdoing in connection with recently reported allegations of irregularities in college basketball recruiting."
"I am humbled and grateful to be back at LSU," Wade said in a separate statement. "I would like to express my appreciation to President F. King Alexander and Athletic Director Joe Alleva for my reinstatement, and I sincerely apologize to the university and our fans for the disruption to the University and the program.
"I regret the circumstances that prevented me from meeting with the University sooner. I wish I could have addressed these issues when the University first requested a meeting, and I’m grateful they gave me the opportunity to do so last week.
LSU President and Chancellor F. King Alexander and Alleva made the decision to suspend Wade on March 8 after reports by Yahoo! Sports surfaced about a conversation between Wade and Dawkins about a “strong-ass offer” to LSU basketball player Javonte Smart during his recruitment. Wade was scheduled to meet with an unknown number of school officials March 8 but did not show when he was informed of NCAA’s presence and on the advice of his legal counsel.
"I completely understand that without my denying or explaining the media reports accusing me of wrongdoing LSU was left with no choice but to suspend me until I was willing and able to meet with them," Wade said. "Any other course of action would have put the program and the University at risk."
Soon after the suspension, the University issued a public ultimatum to Wade – meet or remain suspended. This led to a public appeal for his job by Wade, who claimed he was exercising his constitutional rights by not meeting with the University when he was expected to be called to testify by the defense in Dawkins’ upcoming trial.
LSU’s legal counsel Tom Skinner returned a public jab back at Wade, and thus began a stalemate between Wade and the school with little communication between the two sides.
Wade missed the Southeastern Conference and NCAA tournaments while out with his suspension, but he remained in contact with the coaches and players on the team during that time.
“The University regrets that Coach Wade did not choose to fulfill his obligations to LSU 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. Protecting LSU and preserving our integrity must always be our first priority.
“Coach Wade's explanations and clarifications offered during the meeting, absent actual evidence of misconduct, satisfy his contractual obligation to LSU. Accordingly, I have recommended that Coach Wade's suspension be lifted and that he should be allowed to resume his coaching responsibilities. President Alexander has accepted this recommendation.”
A final resolution looked within sight when reports by Ross Dellenger of Sports Illustrated stated Wade added attorney Steven Thompson to his counsel. Thompson worked with Arizona’s Sean Miller and Auburn’s Bruce Pearl regarding their statuses in the federal government’s probe into college basketball.
Thompson reopened talks between Wade and LSU, but the biggest push to end the suspension seems to have come from the federal government. Prosecutors in Dawkins’ trial later this month filed a motion to prevent Wade from being called to the stand because he had not accepted any bribes from Dawkins, and the prosecutors felt like Wade’s testimony would be irrelevant to Dawkins’ alleged crimes of bribery and fraud.
The end of Wade's suspension appears to conclude a month-long circus that has involved LSU's administration, members of the Board of Supervisors and even the governor of Louisiana.
However, the long-term ramifications are still to be seen. Fans have thrown their support behind Wade and called for the firing of Alexander and Alleva. What comes of the mess will likely play out over the upcoming summer months and possibly into the winter.
"I look forward to re-joining the team right away," Wade said. "I intend to sit down with my student-athletes and co-workers to explain what has happened during the last 30 days and how I intend for us all to move forward.
“I promise to devote all of my energy into preparing for next season and finishing the job we have started at LSU. Again, I'd like to thank the Board of Supervisors, President Alexander, Athletic Director Joe Alleva, our student-athletes, and our fans for this opportunity."