After a suspension lasting more than a month, LSU basketball coach Will Wade has been reinstated.
The school's decision was announced Sunday afternoon, along with a statement from Wade that he was "humbled and grateful" to return to his coaching job.
"I would like to express my appreciation," Wade said in a statement. " ... And I sincerely apologize to the university and our fans for the disruption to the university and the program."
Wade met with university officials on Friday for the first face-to-face meeting since being suspended on March 8 after Wade declined to meet with university officials about comments he reportedly made in a FBI wiretapped phone call with federally convicted sports agent Christian Dawkins.
No real details emerged from the meeting other than the fact that no decisions were made at that point, according to a brief statement from an LSU spokesman.
LSU Athletic Director and Vice Chancellor Joe Alleva said in his statement that Wade answered "all questions and denied any wrongdoing in connection with recently reported allegations of irregularities in college basketball recruiting."
“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."
In Wade's statement, he said he regrets "the circumstances" that prevented such a meeting from occurring sooner, but understands why the suspension was necessary.
"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. Any other course of action would have put the program and the University at risk," wade said in the statement.
Few details came out of the first face-to-face meeting in more than a month Friday between suspended LSU men's basketball coach Will Wade and …
The meeting was considered to be a first step in the stalemate between LSU and Wade the spanned back to his suspension on March 8.
The timing of the meeting was critical with the start of the spring signing period kicking off on Wednesday. So far this offseason, the Tigers have lost freshmen Naz Reid, Javonte Smart and Emmitt Williams, sophomore Tremont Waters and junior Skylar Mays to the NBA draft.
Wade said he intends to rejoin his team "right away" and detail what has transpired since his suspension as the group moves toward next season.
“I promise to devote all of my energy into preparing for next season and finishing the job we have started at LSU," he said in the statement.
The second-year coach led the Tigers to the cusp of a regular season SEC championship before his suspension. LSU assistant coach Tony Benford coached during Wade's absence, leading the Tigers to the title clinching win over Vanderbilt, LSU's first since 2009.
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Benford coached the Tigers during their loss to Florida in their first SEC Tournament game, as well as the team's two NCAA Tournament wins over Yale and Maryland. The Tigers were overwhelmed by Michigan State in the Sweet 16, never leading in the game, putting an end to the topsy-turvy year.
Wade has remained out of the spotlight since a Yahoo! Sports report revealed the wiretapped phone conversations.
In the recordings, Wade expressed frustration to Dawkins over the handling of a "strong-ass offer" to a basketball recruit. He complained about the player wanting a "bigger piece of the pie in the deal."
The player Wade referred to in the phone conversation appears to be Javonte Smart. Wade refers to "this Smart thing" during the call with Dawkins, but does not further identify him. The timeframe of the calls coincide with Smart's recruitment coming out of Scotlandville Magnet High School. Smart averaged 11.1 points per game as a freshman guard for the Tigers. LSU sat Smart for the regular-season finale against Vanderbilt due to what the university described in a press release as an "abundance of caution."
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LSU officials asked Wade to provide further information regarding the Yahoo media report. According to senior associate athletic director Robert Munson, Wade declined to do so, which resulted in the indefinite suspension.
The 36-year-old coach, who spent time at Virginia Commonwealth and Chattanooga before taking the job in Baton Rouge, released a public plea to be reinstated ahead of the SEC Tournament.
Wade cited his "love for LSU and everything it stands for” and argued that it was improper for him to be suspended under such circumstances.
"I love LSU and everything it stands for. What I’m asking for is the right to do my job while exercising my constitutional rights. I don’t think that’s too much to ask," he said later in the statement.
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LSU's general counsel and VP for legal affairs Tom Skinner rebutted the statement, pointing out that Wade had yet to "deny any wrongdoing to us or publicly" and that there was a "standing offer to meet with LSU officials."
Several sports analysts, including longtime ESPN personality Dick Vitale, vehemently derided the situation, several calling for the Tigers to surrender bids for postseason play as the situation was investigated. School officials quickly dismissed the idea.
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A day before LSU's Sweet 16 game, another Yahoo! Sports report identified a middleman referenced in the wiretaps as Shannon Forman Sr. The former Southern Lab basketball star has connections to Smart as a former coach and a mentor, and Benford confirmed the pair had spoken.
Wade has long been linked to FBI investigation which has rocked college basketball since 2017. Wade is expected to be forced to testify for the defense at a second federal trial for Dawkins and former Adidas consultant Merl Code on April 22 in New York.
The FBI visited Baton Rouge to learn more about Wade's recruiting tactics in the weeks following his suspension, according to a Yahoo Sports report.
"If the FBI has been in town, we are not aware of it," said Robert Munson, senior associate athletic director at LSU, in a statement provided to Yahoo Sports. "The University has not been contacted."
Check back for updates.