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Students hold up signs in support of LSU guard JaÕvonte Smart and LSU head coach Will Wade and against LSU athletic director Joe Alleva as the Tigers host Vanderbilt, Saturday, March 9, 2019, at LSU's Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, La.

When LSU athletic director Joe Alleva walked up the aisle to take his seat in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center for the men’s basketball game with Vanderbilt last Saturday, he wasn’t expecting a warm reception from the sellout crowd.

On the night No. 9 LSU clinched the outright Southeastern Conference regular-season title, Alleva was showered with boos and derisive chants directed at him and signs that called for his firing a day after Tigers head coach Will Wade was suspended indefinitely by the university.

“Well, I didn’t expect to be greeted with cheers,” Alleva said Wednesday. “I expected that.”

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Wade was sidelined Friday after declining to meet with LSU President F. King Alexander and Alleva to address comments he made on a secretly-recorded FBI phone call with convicted recruiting middleman Christian Dawkins.

According to a national report, the conversation appeared to be about a recruiting offer to current LSU freshman Javonte Smart, who was also held out of the game.

Speaking on a teleconference with The Advocate editorial board from Nashville, Tennessee, where he was attending meetings in advance of the SEC tournament that begins Wednesday night, Alleva said he knew what was going to happen when he walked into the building.

“I mean, the fans … Will’s winning and he’s not coaching,” Alleva said. “And, of course, I’m going to get the blame for it. That’s part of my job,

“You know what, my job is to be there and support the players,” he said. “That’s why I was there, and it didn’t change because Will wasn’t coaching.”

At the time of Wade’s suspension, LSU had a 25-5 overall record and was 15-2 in conference play, just one win or a Tennessee loss away from claiming the league’s regular-season crown for the first time since 2009.

When Tennessee lost to Auburn earlier Saturday, LSU clinched at least a share of the championship and the No. 1 seed for the SEC tournament.

That night, even though many fans unleashed their anger on Alleva over Wade’s suspension, he said his job was to “protect the institution and the integrity of the institution.”

When asked what he would say to the fans, Alleva paused and said, “You know, I really wouldn’t say much to them. I believe we did the right thing.

“It’s not all about winning. A lot of people just care about winning. … Winning is not the end of what we do. Our job is to prepare young people for the rest of their lives. If there is, and I use the word strongly, if there’s any cheating involved that is not winning, OK? That is not winning.”

Follow Sheldon Mickles on Twitter, @MicklesAdvocate.