The NCAA was scheduled to complete its investigation of alleged violations within the LSU men’s basketball and football programs by July 31, but that deadline has been extended, further stretching an investigation that has lasted roughly three years.
Documents shared between LSU and the NCAA, which The Advocate obtained through a public records request, revealed the latest in a probe that lumped the football and men’s basketball cases together by referring them last year to the Independent Accountability Review Process, a group designed to handle complex NCAA infractions.
LSU had requested a separation of the football and basketball cases, which the NCAA denied.
The IARP’s complex case unit and LSU agreed upon a July 31 completion date for the investigation, but LSU spokesperson Ernie Ballard confirmed the completion date had been extended and that the investigation is still ongoing. LSU declined further comment.
Once the investigation ends, the complex case unit will have 60 days to issue LSU a notice of allegations, documents showed, which could affect men’s basketball coach Will Wade’s future at the school.
The case will then be heard by a review panel that determines if violations occurred and levies penalties. That panel’s decisions are final and cannot be appealed — a key reason why LSU wanted the football and men’s basketball cases separated.
The LSU men’s basketball case includes alleged violations involving “at least 13 prospective student athletes and a projected 75 individuals who may have knowledge of, and/or involvement in, the alleged violations," according to a December letter from external investigator Nicole Lamb-Hale and LSU compliance director Bo Bahnsen.
The NCAA has investigated alleged recruiting violations under Wade since 2018. After Yahoo Sports published excerpts from a conversation wiretapped by the FBI between Wade and now-convicted middleman Christian Dawkins, in which Wade described a "strong-ass offer” to a recruit, Wade initially declined to meet with LSU and NCAA officials. The decision led to an indefinite suspension that lasted 37 days in 2019. Wade eventually spoke with the groups.
As part of his reinstatement, Wade forfeited $250,000 in incentives for the 2018-19 season. LSU also added a clause to Wade’s contract that allows the school to fire him with cause if it receives a notice of allegations for either a Level 1 or Level 2 violation. Wade’s attorney, Steven Thompson, could not be reached for comment.
“My expectation is that our athletic director (Scott Woodward) would — if something is contractually laid out — that he would execute the contract,” LSU president William F. Tate IV said during a meeting with The Advocate’s editorial board Thursday.
LSU’s case began under investigation by the NCAA enforcement staff, but last September, the governing body moved the case to the Independent Accountability Review Process.
The enforcement staff recommended the move because 13 months had passed before the group received Wade’s complete cellphone image records, which totaled nearly 60,000, according to documents obtained by The Advocate last year through a public records request.
The enforcement staff argued Wade’s actions throughout the process led to significant delays. The matter was also put on hold because the NCAA had to pause its initial investigation for a federal trial on corruption in college basketball in 2018 and one of Wade’s attorneys had to undergo cancer treatment, records showed.
The enforcement staff believed valuable information had been lost as a result, another factor that led to the investigation being sent to the IARP’s complex case unit.
The time that passed created "stale or incomplete facts that must be validated" when the complex case unit received the case, Lamb-Hale and Bahnsen wrote in December. They noted NCAA enforcement staff had interviewed 18 people before the case was referred to the IARP, leaving the panel with another 59 individuals to interview.
At the same time, the NCAA investigated the LSU football program for three rules violations. LSU unsuccessfully asked the NCAA to split the men’s basketball and football cases, arguing the football cases were closer to a resolution and objecting to the lack of an appeal in the Independent Accountability Review Process. Findings in the traditional peer-reviewed process allowed for appeals.
How lumping the cases together will affect potential punishments is unclear. The NCAA hasn’t yet punished any school whose case went through the Independent Accountability Review Process.
A month after the NCAA’s decision, LSU cut eight football scholarships over the next two years, reduced recruiting visits and banned former LSU wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. from the facility for two years after he distributed $2,000 in cash after LSU won the 2020 national championship.
LSU hoped to satisfy NCAA enforcement by doing so and avoid further penalties against the football program. It also self-imposed a one-year bowl ban in December.
The investigation into men’s basketball has continued under the complex case unit. According to letters from external investigators dated between November 2020 and May 2021, the complex case unit asked for more documents to help decide if violations occurred within the program.
Those included more material from Wade’s cell phones, records and devices from associate head coach Bill Armstrong and director of basketball operations Nelson Hernandez, the recruiting file for a player whose name was redacted from the documents and the passenger manifest for everyone who traveled with the team to away games since 2017.
Once the NCAA issues its notice of allegations, involved parties will have a chance to respond and submit information for the hearing. If every deadline gets stretched to its maximum length, another eight months could pass before the case is heard, further extending an investigation that has dragged on for years.
The NCAA recently made changes to try to hasten the process after one of its committees found delays have been caused by the complex case unit “re-investigating” cases. The Independent Accountability Review Process hasn’t adjudicated a case since its inception.
It currently has six unfinished cases, including LSU.