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Will Wade fired as LSU men’s basketball coach after charges of five NCAA Level I violations

LSU has fired embattled men’s basketball coach Will Wade after receiving a notice of allegations detailing gross misconduct, the school announced Saturday.

The layoff means Wade, who was in his fifth season at LSU, will not coach in the upcoming NCAA tournament. The Tigers are projected as the No. 6 seed in the tournament, and assistant Kevin Nickelberry will serve as interim coach.

This will be the second time Wade has been unable to coach a Tigers team he led to the NCAA Tournament. In 2019, LSU won the SEC Regular Season Championship, but Wade was suspended for SEC and NCAA tournaments after reports surfaced that a federal wiretap captured him discussing a “strong offer” for a rookie.

Wade was 108-54 at LSU. He previously coached VCU to two NCAA Tournament appearances and had a solid two-year stint in Chattanooga before that.

Almost all of Wade’s tenure at LSU has operated under the guise of the federal basketball investigation, which became public in September 2017.

According to an NCAA Notice of Allegations that was obtained by ESPN on Saturday through an open filing request, LSU’s Notice contains eight Level I violation allegations. Seven of them are believed to be related to the men’s basketball program. to soccer, and both sports share an allegation that “the institution failed to exercise institutional control and oversight over the conduct and administration of its soccer and men’s basketball programs.”

There are two Level II allegations – one for football and one for basketball – and one Level III for football.

Wade is charged with five Level I violations and one Level II violation. Men’s basketball associate head coach Bill Armstrong is also charged with a Level I violation and a Level II violation. In a statement, LSU also said it had terminated Armstrong’s contract.

“We can no longer subject our university, our athletics department and, above all, our student-athletes to this trying and already lengthy process without taking action,” wrote university president William F. Tate and director sportsman Scott Woodward. in an open letter. “Our responsibility to protect and promote the integrity and well-being of our entire institution and our student-athletes will always be paramount.”

According to documents obtained by ESPN in August 2020, NCAA law enforcement personnel received information that Wade “arranged, offered, and/or provided ineligible payments, including cash payments, to at least least 11 potential men’s basketball student-athletes, their family members, individuals associated with the prospects and/or non-scholastic coaches in exchange for the prospects enrolling at LSU.”

The allegations were included in NCAA law enforcement personnel’s request that its case of violations involving LSU’s men’s basketball program be adjudicated through the Independent Liability Resolution Process, which was created to deal with complex cases.

As part of Wade’s 2019 reinstatement, he agreed to an amended contract that included a stipulation allowing the university to terminate him for cause if he was found to have committed Level I or level II. to waive a performance bonus of $250,000 for the 2018-2019 season. He also agreed not to sue the university if fired for cause.

LSU should not pay Wade any money remaining on his contract as a result of these changes. The scope of what is alleged in the Notice of Allegations should meet these thresholds.

Tate and Woodward noted that Wade’s dismissal was “not an acknowledgment of agreement with any of the allegations” and that the school will undergo “a full and objective review of relevant facts and applicable NCAA regulations.”

Among the five Level I allegations, the NCAA accused Wade of providing “inadmissible cash payments to the former fiancée of a student-athlete in order to buy her silence regarding past and current impermissible student-athlete inducements- athletes or future student-athletes”. The allegation had not previously been reported.

NCAA investigators found text messages between Wade and the woman in July and August 2017, in which the woman told Wade that people had offered her money to talk about LSU payments to players.

“[Please] contact me by the end of the day or I will have to accept the offer,” the woman wrote.

“Call me,” Wade replied.

On July 27, 2017, the woman sent another text message to Wade, which read, “I need 5 more to put a deposit on a car. Put it in the same account.”

On August 1, 2017, after the woman texted Wade and asked if he had received her message regarding the extra payment, he replied, “I’m sorry you’re having money issues. You’ve said we were done after the last transfer I sent, so in my mind we are done.”

The NCAA also accused Wade of making payments in April 2018 to someone who had influence over a prospect’s decision about where he would play in college. In exchange for the individual’s influence, “Wade ordered that payments be made to [the individual] a bank account in the name of Wade’s wife which Wade and his wife treated as a joint account.”

Wade is also accused of violating the NCAA Principles of Ethical Conduct and failing to cooperate with the investigation, “as well as a number of other allegations [Complex Case Unit] was ultimately unable to provide full evidence, when he refused to produce all of the documents the CCU had requested of him.”

The NCAA alleges that Armstrong, to Wade’s knowledge, provided impermissible recruiting inducements between February 2020 and June 2020 “in the form of cash payments, job offer, housing, ineligible academic assistance, scholarship, and visa assistance” to a then-prospect and/or their family members to secure their commitment to LSU.

“Specifically, Armstrong offered to provide [the recruit] and/or his family members or associates with $300,000 in cash (paid in installments of $50,000),” the notice of allegations reads. “Armstrong also offered to do various favors for [the prospect’s] friends and relatives as an additional incentive to secure [the prospect’s] commitment to LSU, including: employment with the institution’s men’s basketball program, an apartment, and a car to [the prospect’s] cousin; a scholarship promise for a friend of the [prospect]and assistance obtaining visas for other basketball players in the United States. »

Wade is accused of telling aspiring business manager Christian Dawkins during a wiretapped conversation in 2017 that he was frustrated with recruiting future LSU player Javonte Smart because he “went to [Smart’s handler] with a strong ass fucking offer about a month ago. Fucking strong.” Smart eventually signed with LSU and played three seasons before turning pro in 2021.

Dawkins was investigated by the FBI for bribes and other acts of corruption in college basketball. He has been convicted in two federal criminal cases and is currently serving time in federal prison in Alabama.

LSU’s football program is also charged with three violations, including a Level I charge involving a Tigers booster embezzling more than $500,000 from a hospital foundation and donating some of the stolen money to the parents of two former players. football from LSU.

The Tigers are charged with a Level II violation involving Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., a former LSU star, who gave $2,000 cash to four Tigers football players on the field after the team’s 42-25 win over Clemson at College. National Football Playoff Championship in January 2020.

There is also a Level III charge involving football; former Tigers coach Ed Orgeron is accused of having inappropriate contact with a rookie in January 2019.

In October 2020, LSU self-imposed the loss of eight scholarships over two years, reduced recruiting visits, assessments, and communication, and banned Beckham from its football facilities for two years. were 3-5 with two games left in the season.

Wade’s last game at LSU was a loss to Arkansas in the SEC Tournament in which he received a technical foul for arguing with the officials in the first half.

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