If you are an LSU fan, set aside for a moment how much you like Will Wade and want him to continue as its basketball coach.
Set aside for a moment how much you may not like athletic director Joe Alleva and want him to go — especially after he became the very public face of the university's decision Friday to suspend Wade indefinitely.
At this point, virtually no one knows the entire story of what Wade may or may not have done. There are wiretaps, damning ones, of him talking to convicted college basketball middleman Christian Dawkins, apparently about a potential offer to current Tigers guard Javonte Smart.
Wade asked in a statement Friday that people reserve judgment until after the full story comes out — but Wade has done himself no favors by not speaking to LSU administrators, leading to an indefinite suspension.
Alleva and LSU lead counsel Tom Skinner spoke Wednesday morning to The Advocate’s editorial board about the Wade and Smart situations. Out of that 45-minute meeting, a few points became abundantly clear to me:
University officials won't let suspended LSU basketball coach Will Wade return to the bench until he sits down with them to answer questions a…
1. LSU would very much like to figure out a way to keep Wade as its basketball coach if it can. But that may not be possible if Wade does not come to them to explain his side of the wiretapped conversation with Dawkins.
2. Smart will likely be cleared soon to return to play, probably in time for LSU’s Southeastern Conference tournament opener Friday in Nashville, Tennessee. That may be the extent of the off-the-court good news for the LSU basketball program this week.
3. LSU cannot wait forever for Wade to meet and talk with his employer. Skinner described the Wade situation as a “day-by-day thing.” But though Wade's suspension may be indefinite, LSU’s patience with him can not be.
There is undoubtedly an element of self-preservation to LSU’s actions, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t the right thing to do. LSU perhaps wants to exhibit to the NCAA that the school has exhibited institutional control over its basketball program. That started by confronting Wade in October over allegations of other recruiting improprieties, and it continued with suspending Wade last week and holding Smart out of the regular-season finale against Vanderbilt.
“I believe we did the right thing,” Alleva said. “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, and if — and I use the word strongly, 'if' — there’s any cheating involved, that is not winning.”
Alleva repeated the “That is not winning” phrase for emphasis. Wade does something similar, repeating himself when he is trying to hammer home a point. The way Wade reportedly did when talking to Dawkins about an offer to Smart on that wiretapped call.
“That’s not the kind of thing you want to teach young people,” Alleva continued. “So that’s why we’re where we are right now. So hopefully we get to the bottom of this and move forward.”
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 …
Moving forward in a legal sense is usually glacial in terms of pace. According to last week’s Yahoo! Sports story, Wade’s testimony in the Dawkins case will not come until April 22 at the earliest, more than two weeks after the NCAA tournament ends. The case could drag into May or June.
All that means, barring someone crashing into the courtroom waving a new scrap of evidence, that Wade is highly unlikely to coach the Tigers in the postseason.
And beyond that, LSU can not wait forever.
Eventually, the program would have to move on to another coach, an outcome that looks more probable with each passing day.
“The situation is developing,” Skinner said. “It’s still early. The current status will not last indefinitely. I think we can say that.”
So LSU limbos into the postseason without its head coach, but still with a talented team that has dealt with more than its share of woe this season. A season bookended by the tragic shooting death of Wayde Sims and the predicament Will Wade finds himself in.
LSU's basketball team traveled to Nashville on Wednesday for the Southeastern Conference tournament, but their coach wasn't on the plane, and …
Can they get through it and win more titles? Can Wade eventually return? I still believe there is a path through this current purgatory, for him and LSU. But it won’t come at all costs. If nothing else, LSU has established that.
“I would love for him to come back and be our coach,” Alleva said. Then he stressed, “Under the premise he didn’t do anything wrong. He is an outstanding coach. But he has to be cleared.
“The magic word is integrity. Doing the right thing and protecting the integrity of the institution. LSU is a vital entity in the state of Louisiana, and it is our goal and mission to protect it.”
How many cut-down nets adds up to a university’s integrity?
The answer is, there are never enough.