After being mentioned in a national column this week about basketball programs allowing players to remain on the team after being accused of sexual assault, Will Wade on Friday explained how LSU vetted two players expected to be on his team next season.
The column, by Rob Dauster of NBCSports.com, started with the news last week that Michigan State coach Tom Izzo allowed at least four players and a student assistant to remain with his team while and after they were accused of and investigated for violence against women.
The column mentioned Kavell Bigby-Williams, a transfer expected to play next year for LSU, and the Tigers' newest commitment, Emmitt Williams. Both have been investigated for alleged sexual assault crimes.
“You look at each case individually,” Wade said Friday when asked how potential prospects are vetted. “We don’t want to do anything that’s going to put LSU’s campus at risk, or students at risk.”
Wade explained that neither he nor athletic department officials do the vetting.
“We’ve got professionals on campus to do all that,” he said. “You leave it up to them, and they give us an answer one way or the other. That’s not for basketball coaches to get into. That’s not for athletic department staff to get into.”
In an email to The Advocate, senior associate athletic director Robert Munson said the procedures LSU uses ensure proper vetting of prospective student-athletes.
“Coach Wade is right that our procedures ensure vetting and final approval is in the hands of university officials, not coaches," Munson said. "University and compliance officials take a very close look at each case and do a thorough review — including interviews with authorities and review of public documents.
"If a scholarship is offered, our policies and procedures help to make sure each case is handled independently through the university Title IX office and ultimately through the university admissions process, which could include an even closer examination.”
Last summer, a story about Bigby-Williams, who previously played for Oregon, broke the day after he announced he was transferring to LSU.
According to the story, Bigby-Williams played the entire 2016-17 season for Oregon, which reached the Final Four, while being investigated for forcible rape in Wyoming. Sports Illustrated later reported that Bigby-Williams said he had consensual sex with the alleged victim.
LSU investigated and then signed Bigby-Williams after he was cleared by campus police at Gillette (Wyoming) College, where he starred for two seasons before signing with Oregon.
Bigby-Williams, a 6-foot-11 forward who was never charged, enrolled at LSU in August and is redshirting this season in compliance with NCAA transfer rules.
These are the pains that come along with the growing the LSU men’s basketball program is trying to do.
LSU last month picked up a commitment from Williams, a five-star forward prospect from Florida who was charged with sexual assault and false imprisonment last October.
The charges were dropped in December, and, if Williams honors his commitment, he will sign with Wade’s program when the spring signing period begins April 11.
Earlier this week, Wade told The Advocate he was aware of the NBC Sports column and stood by a statement the university put out when Bigby-Williams was allowed to enroll.
“The university conducted a responsible and comprehensive review before approving the transfer, including close coordination with Title IX officials, multiple discussions with Gillette and Oregon officials and a thorough examination of available public records,” Wade said in the statement.
“This is an issue we all take seriously, and we made absolutely sure we did our due diligence before considering moving forward. Kavell understands that and has made clear to me that he’s going to repay our confidence by representing LSU with his very best on and off the court.”
Wade isn’t allowed to talk about Williams because he has yet to sign with the program, but Wade noted he has backed off potential recruits for various reasons — including character and academic issues.
“At one of my previous schools, we brought in a kid on an official visit and I sent him home after one night,” he said. “We’ve backed off kids for all sorts of different reasons. You want to make sure the people you bring in fit your team and fit your culture.”