LSU basketball coach Will Wade forfeited performance bonuses for his team’s SEC championship season and agreed to contract changes making it easier for LSU to fire him if the NCAA cites him for serious infractions.
Wade signed off on the changes on April 14, the same day then-LSU athletic director Joe Alleva announced Wade’s return from indefinite suspension. Alleva has since stepped down from that role.
The contract modifications were first reported by Sports Illustrated’s Ross Dellenger, who obtained the documents through a public records request.
As part of the deal, Wade agreed to give up $250,000 in total bonuses his team earned during his suspension for winning the SEC regular-season title and making the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament, the most successful run for an LSU men’s basketball team in more than a decade.
Assistant coach Tony Benford led the team during Wade's absence.
Wade’s contract also now allows LSU to fire Wade for cause if he commits a Level I or Level II NCAA violation or if the NCAA infractions committee issues a formal notice to LSU that Wade was involved in a Level 1 or Level 2 violation.
The NCAA defines a Level I violation as a "severe breach of conduct." Level II is a "significant breach of conduct."
LSU suspended Wade indefinitely March 8 after he refused to answer questions about leaked FBI wiretaps of him discussing the recruitment of a prospect — believed to be current LSU guard Javonte Smart — with aspiring sports agent Christian Dawkins, who’s since been convicted of federal fraud charges for steering illicit cash payoffs to college players and their families.
A federal judge ruled that LSU basketball coach Will Wade will likely not have to take the witness stand during an upcoming federal criminal c…
Wade told Dawkins in phone conversations secretly recorded by the FBI he'd made a "strong-ass offer" to a middleman close with the recruit and complained about trouble closing the deal, in part because that middleman wanted a bigger "piece of the pie."
Wade and the LSU men's basketball program are believed to be the subject of an NCAA investigation at least in part because of the wiretaps.
“This amendment to Will Wade’s contract represents a strong commitment by Coach Wade to the integrity of the institution and to his continued cooperation in partnership with LSU," said Jason Droddy, LSU's interim vice president for strategic communications, in a statement Wednesday. "We are pleased we were able to come to this agreement as we move forward in this process.”
New LSU athletic director Scott Woodward, who replaced Alleva last week, said Tuesday that "coach Wade is LSU's coach, and he will have my 100 percent support."
LSU President F. King Alexander ordered Alleva to suspend Wade less than 24 hours after Yahoo! Sports first reported the contents of those wiretaps, citing "Will Wade’s refusal to meet with us regarding the accusations published yesterday in the media."
The stalemate ended April 12 with a meeting among Wade, Wade's attorney and officials with LSU and the NCAA to discuss the reported wiretaps. The university reinstated the coach two days later.
"I would like to express my appreciation," Wade said in a joint statement with Alleva announcing his return, later adding: "I sincerely apologize to the university and our fans for the disruption to the university and the program."
Alleva said in the same statement that Wade answered "all questions and denied any wrongdoing in connection with recently reported allegations of irregularities in college basketball recruiting."
Wade's "explanations and clarifications offered during the meeting, absent actual evidence of misconduct, satisfy his contractual obligation to LSU,” Alleva said.
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Wade indicated his reluctance to speak with LSU and NCAA officials was due in part to an ongoing federal criminal investigation into corruption in college basketball. He said the wiretaps "do not begin to tell the full story" and asking the public to "withhold their judgment until the record is complete."
An attorney for Dawkins reportedly sought to force Wade to testify in a federal bribery trial that begin Monday in New York City. But the federal judge in the case ruled last week that Wade's testimony would likely be irrelevant to the case, which focuses on bribes paid to assistant coaches at a handful of other schools.
Wade's name nonetheless surfaced tangentially during witness testimony at the trial Wednesday in a lengthy text-message list of college coaches and assistants Dawkins indicated he hoped to do business with.
There was no indication Dawkins spoke to all the coaches listed, much less struck deals for recruits or conspired to break NCAA rules, according to a report from CBS Sports' Matt Norlander. Alongside Wade on Dawkins' list was current LSU assistant Greg Heiar and Mike Morrell, the current head coach at UNC-Asheville who worked as a fellow assistant with Wade under Shaka Smart at VCU.
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The case against Dawkins stems from a lengthy undercover FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball — bankrolled in part by executives at sportswear firm Adidas — that was publicly revealed with a wave of arrests in September 2017.
The ensuing scandal ensnared dozens of universities tied in varying ways to the case. Louisville, which was extensively implicated in the federal case, promptly fired Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino and several assistants.
But the NCAA hasn't taken action against any of universities or coaches tied to the scandal, instead holding off until the federal criminal cases conclude at the request of federal prosecutors.
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