It Looks Like Will Wade Is Now Forcing LSU To Either Reinstate Or Fire Him…

…based on the statement Wade put out to the media Thursday morning. Here’s what LSU’s suspended basketball coach said…

“This morning, I advised President Alexander, Athletic Director Joe Alleva and the LSU Board of Supervisors that I would like to resume my duties as Head Basketball Coach. Last week, when the University decided to place me on administrative leave, I accepted the decision without complaint as I knew that they wanted time to reflect on the flurry of media reports. With the benefit of a week to consider the circumstances, I believe University officials should allow me to resume my duties.

“I understand that in today’s hyper-intense media environment it is extremely difficult for any organization, particularly a public university, to stand firm in the face of rumors, leaks and innuendo. In this case, the simple truth is I have been placed on leave because I exercised my right not to submit to a joint LSU/NCAA interview on the exact same subject matter at issue in an impending federal criminal trial in New York. My legal counsel advised the University that it would be wholly inappropriate for me, or anyone, to submit to an interview under these circumstances.

“Declining to be interviewed was a difficult decision for me, as I would like to cooperate fully with all parties, particularly LSU. To be clear, however, all I’ve done is follow the prudent advice of counsel to exercise my constitutional rights to due process. Given these facts, I don’t believe it is appropriate for me to be relieved of my duties. We have a great basketball program made up of excellent student athletes and quality coaches. The players who’ve given their all for this institution, the students and alumni who are devoted to LSU, and fans all across Louisiana and beyond deserve to see this team fulfill its destiny. 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.”

Let’s remember that Wade wasn’t suspended by LSU last week because of the leaked transcripts of FBI wiretaps in the Christian Dawkins trial. That’ certainly the environment in which his suspension occurred, but the proximate cause of his indefinite suspension was that LSU asked him for a briefing on his appearance in those wiretaps and he refused, on advice of his attorney.

Yesterday it came out that the circumstances of that requested briefing looked an awful lot like a setup Wade refused to walk into.

On Thursday (March 7), Wade and his counsel originally agreed to meet with LSU officials and NCAA investigators Friday in the wake of the media reports alleging his recruiting misconduct.

LSU wanted a representative from the NCAA present at the meeting, Ernie Ballard, LSU’s director for media relations, told NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune on Wednesday (March 13), and conveyed that to Wade and his counsel.

On Friday, Wade’s lawyer contacted LSU to say that meeting would no longer be taking place.

“Our understanding is that they declined the meeting when we wouldn’t do it without a representative from NCAA being involved and that we wouldn’t limit the scope of the questioning,” Ballard said. “His attorney was more than welcome to participate in any meeting with administration and Wade.”

Munson added: “It wasn’t a contentious thing either. It was just, ‘Based on whatever, we’re not going to meet at this point.’ It wasn’t a no-show.”

Why LSU demanded an NCAA representative would be on hand is a question we can’t answer, because there is no way the presence of somebody from the NCAA would lead to a positive resolution. Besides, the NCAA isn’t investigating Wade, at least not yet – why would he meet with them? And given that he can’t answer questions like “Did you offer anything in violation of NCAA rules to Javonte Smart?” before he testifies at the Christian Dawkins trial, it’s pretty easy to predict what comes out of such a meeting – namely, that Wade wasn’t cooperative with the internal investigation and he’s out of a job.

Arizona’s Sean Miller, who was in this same situation a year ago after he was caught on tape discussing a $100,000 offer to star forward DeAndre Ayton when the latter was a recruit, was suspended for one game and reinstated after he met with the school’s athletic director and president. But the NCAA wasn’t at that meeting. And Auburn’s Bruce Pearl, who has had assistant coaches popped not only in the Dawkins/Adidas investigation but also in this week’s college admissions bribery case, has been refusing to meet with that school’s top officials for almost two years now. Both are still coaching though it looks like Miller may have coached his last game in Tucson.

So there is precedent for LSU to reinstate Wade if it wanted to. And LSU officials, most notably AD Joe Alleva, have said that LSU wants to reinstate him.

But today’s statement by Wade might actually make it more difficult, rather than less, for LSU to do so. Because reinstating the coach now will look a bit like they’re capitulating to him, and while LSU’s top brass seems to capitulate to pressure from all kinds of people something tells us this isn’t going to be one of those situations.

Unless maybe LSU agrees to reinstate Wade in return for a commitment to a full briefing in front of the NCAA as soon as the season is over. It’s entirely possible he won’t actually have to testify in the Dawkins trial – Dawkins might sign a plea agreement beforehand.

We’ll see how this comes out. It’s pretty clear that the bulk of LSU’s fan base is behind Wade, at least until something is proven with respect to whether he violated NCAA rules, and it seems the coach is using that as leverage to resume coaching the Tiger basketball team. Perhaps it’s worth a shot in the short run, but the pressure he’s putting on the administration might make them more likely to sever ties with the coach.

UPDATE: LSU’s response, delivered through an attorney, at Sports Illustrated

The school responded to Wade’s statement Thursday during an interview with Sports Illustrated. “In everything that’s been said by Will and his folks in the past week, not once have they denied any wrongdoing,” says Tom Skinner, the school’s general counsel. “As a university and employer, we need to hear our employee say, ‘I didn’t do anything wrong,’ or explain the circumstances or admit he did do something wrong. We’ve been unable to get to that point. We have no choice, in terms of institutional control, to not suspend someone.”

Skinner says Wade’s attorneys sent an email this morning demanding his reinstatement and explaining his constitutional right.

For LSU, the words institutional control are at the heart of the matter. A school’s biggest fear is being sanctioned by the NCAA for lacking institutional control, a ruling that could set an athletic department back years and open it up to investigations in multiple sports. “The phrase institutional control is tossed around, but the shorthand version is the NCAA wants universities to have control over their programs,” Skinner says. “They want those universities to have procedures and follow those procedures. If there’s potential wrongdoing that arises, what’d the university do to stop that wrongdoing and take appropriate action? In this case, there have been allegations made via the media of some improper activity. We want to meet with him about it. We have to demonstrate we’ve taken appropriate action.”

Short version: under the bus you go, Will.

We said earlier this week we felt like the most likely outcome of this whole business is that Wade has coached his last game at LSU and the basketball program will be down the tubes for the foreseeable future. Nothing in today’s developments changes that view – especially given Skinner’s response to Wade.

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