The commissioner of the Southeastern Conference said Friday he supports LSU's decision to suspend basketball coach Will Wade.
The school named assistant Tony Benford the interim coach after explosive reports surfaced Thursday saying Wade was has been recorded on an FBI wiretap discussing possible payment for a recruit.
“I support the action of LSU in its suspension of head men’s basketball coach Will Wade," Sankey said in a statement. "The information in recent news reports is very disturbing, if true. Considering the existing circumstances, LSU has taken appropriate action today while the investigation continues.
"The SEC serves in an advisory role with our institutions in NCAA compliance issues and the Conference Office will continue to assist LSU as it moves forward in this matter.”
In a joint statement, LSU Chancellor F. King Alexander and LSU athletic director Joe Alleva said the suspension will continue until LSU can ensure that Wade's recruiting tactics have been in full compliance with NCAA and university policies.
"Recent media reports regarding coach Will Wade are without question concerning to all of us," the joint statement said. "As such, we and university officials have taken deliberate and purposeful steps to fairly assess and adequately address this situation. ... We are closely coordinating with the NCAA with every step. They have our full cooperation and we will continue to report to them all facts and information on this matter."
A Yahoo report on Thursday included excerpts of a phone call in which Wade spoke with Christian Dawkins, who is one of several people convicted in October of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for funneling illegal payments to families of recruits to Louisville, Kansas and North Carolina State. Dawkins also is a defendant in a federal bribery case scheduled for trial scheduled for April 22, and Wade is expected to be called as a witness in that case.
After LSU suspended coach Will Wade on Friday, the school said it has no intention of skipping the postseason after reports surfaced Thursday …
In the report, Wade is described expressing his frustration with an unidentified third party handling the recruitment of player referred to only as "Smart." LSU has a freshman guard named Javonte Smart who is a former Louisiana high school player of the year.
Wade is quoted on a transcript of the call saying that he made a strong offer that was "tilted toward taking care of" the player and his mother, but that the third party who received the offer was unsatisfied with his "piece of the pie."
The report also states that it was not clear if the offer Wade discusses would violate NCAA rules, or if the player and his family knew of, or accepted, the offer, of which there were no specific details.
Wade was at a public speaking engagement at a south Louisiana casino when the report came out. When asked about the report by media after the event, Wade declined comment other than to express confidence in his players' ability to remain focused on basketball.
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"We've handled everything very well so far," Wade said. "We've talked about the bigger the game or the more noise that's out there, the more you have to narrow your focus. We've been very good at keeping a narrow focus thus far."
Smart has not been made available for comment.
Several LSU players who were among Wade's top recruits the past two years — speaking late Thursday afternoon, before Wade's suspension — echoed some of their coach's comments about moving forward and also suggested their recent success had something to do with the timing of the scrutiny surrounding the program.
LSU basketball coach Will Wade was suspended by the university after he declined to meet with administrators to discuss alleged comments Wade …
"If we weren't winning, trust me, they wouldn't talk about us," freshman forward Emmitt Williams said. "As you can see, we're doing stuff no one ever thought of us doing. They're trying to find a way to bring us down. We don't even pay attention to that stuff."
LSU's 25 regular season victories are tied second most in program history with the 2000 and 2009 teams and behind only the 1981 Final Four team that won a school-record 27 regular season games. The 1981 team went on to finish the postseason with an LSU-record 31 victories in a single season.
Sophomore guard Tremont Waters said LSU players are close-knit group that stays together "when people are trying to create havoc around our program."
"People don't pay attention to losers," Waters added. "Growing up, I never won a championship. People don't talk about you when you're not winning. That's just a way of life."
Wade's suspension comes near the climax of a season that began with amid profound sadness after the late September shooting death of teammate Wayde Sims, a junior forward from Baton Rouge. Sims — a popular role player known for proudly showing teammates around his home town or helping them run errands — was fatally shot while sticking up for a friend who'd been involved in a fight near the campus of Southern University.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.