LSU's basketball team traveled to Nashville on Wednesday for the Southeastern Conference tournament, but their coach wasn't on the plane, and the cloud over the athletic program's integrity lingers on.
With Coach Will Wade, the university is in the untenable position of having an employee who refuses to meet with his bosses, as is required by his contract.
It's not fair to Wade's players. They deserve some closure as they compete in the postseason play they have undeniably earned.
Doubtless the coach is declining to meet on the advice of lawyers, who don't want Wade to say anything that could embroil him further in a wide-ranging federal investigation into improprieties in recruiting.
Wade was apparently wiretapped while talking to a college recruiting middleman about an offer made to a recruit, believed to be LSU freshman Javonte Smart, of Baton Rouge.
Wade was talking to Christian Dawkins, later sentenced to six months in federal court in New York City. Another middleman also was sentenced to six months, and an Adidas executive will serve nine months for bribing the father of a college basketball prospect to have his son attend the University of Louisville.
Last year, when the first wiretap excerpt was published, Wade told Athletic Director Joe Alleva that he had done nothing wrong, and Alleva accepted that denial. But when the second shoe dropped, Wade first agreed to meet, then pulled back.
Wade said in a statement Friday that the portions of the conversations leaked in the wiretaps don't tell the full story.
University officials said Wednesday that the extended investigation needed in such cases is continuing, with the NCAA involved or consulted all along. But a criminal trial in New York could take months; Wade was subpoenaed as a witness.
Alleva said he'd like to see Wade clear his name and return to coaching at LSU.
It's good to see the team winning, so it's not surprising that fans are taking Wade's side and treating him like a victim.
But if Wade has nothing to hide, he should not be afraid to meet with his bosses — an expectation in all employment relationships. In that sense, Wade suspended himself.
In fact, LSU could go further — and probably should. Wade is currently suspended with pay, in accordance with his $400,000-a-year contract.
But why should LSU continue to pay a coach who has left his players in the lurch at a key moment?
Of course, coaches are paid a lot more than their base salary, with various bonuses and broadcast income. Wade's salary comes from athletic department revenues and not the taxpayer; his total package is a six-year, $15 million contract. Preserving that ought to be worth taking a meeting.
The university should not be paying one of its employees who is not meeting his contractual obligations, and not helping to clear the air for his players who are in the games that young athletes live to compete in.