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Former LSU men's basketball coach Will Wade, who was fired for cause in March 2022 due to multiple NCAA Level I violation allegations dating back to 2017, has been assessed a two-year show-cause order and a 10-game suspension at his new school, McNeese State. The punishment was handed down Thursday by the Independent Resolution Panel (IRP), the governing body of the soon-to-be-defunct Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP). 

A day after announcing its hiring of Wade this past March, McNeese State made a proactive move to suspend him for the first five games of the 2023-24 season. The IRP doubled that number on Thursday. The IRP's ruling cannot be appealed. 

According to the IRP, Wade "committed multiple violations, including failing to report potential NCAA violations, providing impermissible cash payments to impede disclosure of information of potential NCAA violations in contradiction to NCAA unethical conduct legislation, and failing to cooperate with the infractions investigation. The hearing panel also found that the former head men's basketball coach violated the head coach responsibility rules by failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the men's basketball program." 

Four Level I violations were determined by the IRP, with two more of Level II and two more Level III transgressions. The majority of this case was about Wade and LSU men's basketball program, but the LSU football program was delivered its own set of sanctions. Those stem from violations totaling $180,150 that involved former LSU lineman Vadal Alexander. The school vacated its football victories from games Alexander played in. Each program is on probation for the next three years, and neither was assessed a lack of institutional control charge, though both were hit with failure-to-monitor charges.

The original notice of allegations in this case alleged Wade's behavior "was deliberate and committed after substantial planning," according to investigators. Wade infamously made reference to a "strong-ass" offer to a then-recruit, who was later identified as former Tigers basketball player JaVonte Smart.

Specific prohibitions included in the two-year show-cause order against Wade: 

  • No off-campus recruiting related activities during any applicable April or summer evaluation and/or contact period
  • Reduction in official visits by four each during the 2023-24 and 2024-25 academic years
  • No recruiting conversations between Sept. 1, 2023, and Oct. 15, 2023, and Sept. 1, 2024, and Oct. 15, 2024
  • No unofficial visits from Sept. 1, 2023, through Oct. 15, 2023, and Sept. 1, 2024, and Oct. 15, 2024
  • Suspension from the first 10 contests of the first season of any Division I employment, which shall not include exhibitions or practice scrimmages

Some of these sanctions were self-imposed by McNeese State when it hired Wade.

Penalties for the LSU men's basketball program (most of them retroactive) include: 

  • A reduction in scholarships by one over the 2023-24 season and by one over the 2024-25 season
  • A 15-week ban on unofficial visits during the 2022-23 academic year
  • Reduction in the total official visits permitted by two during the 2022-23 academic year
  • A seven-week ban on telephonic communication with all prospective men's basketball student-athletes during the 2022-23 academic year
  • An off-campus recruiting restriction of 20 days in 2022-23
  • An off-campus recruiting restriction for the former head coach, former assistant coach No. 1, and then-assistant coaches for 30 days in April-May 2019
  • The then-staff were prohibited from visiting a certain prospective-student-athlete's high school, attending his contests, or otherwise communicating with him for 30 days in April-May 2019

The IRP report details Wade allegedly being extorted by the former fiancée of one of his former players, who threatened to expose Wade for cheating if he didn't provide her money.  

"Based on a comprehensive review of the text message exchanges with the former fiancée prior to August 2017, the hearing panel concluded that credible and persuasive information supports the conclusion that [Wade] violated NCAA unethical conduct bylaws when he made payments to the former fiancée in direct proximity to her requests for money to avoid disclosure of potential impermissible benefits and activities," the IRP's release states, adding that Wade did not report this to LSU at the time.

Wade was also cited for obstructing the NCAA's investigation into this matter, prior to LSU sending it to the IRP. Wade "delayed full production of records and documents and knowingly provided false or misleading information regarding his knowledge of and/or involvement in possible violations of NCAA legislation," per the IRP.

The IRP spared former LSU assistant Bill Armstrong, who was also part of the notice of allegations. In its findings, the IRP said there was "insufficient credible and persuasive information to establish that [Armstrong] offered or provided recruiting inducements to basketball prospective student-athlete No. 1, his family members or associates,"

Thursday's ruling comes more than five and a half years after the public disclosure of the FBI's investigation into college basketball recruiting -- a controversial sting operation that led to the arrest of 10 men, including four former college basketball assistants. Neither Wade nor any other head coaches were charged in the matter. In its case, the federal government identified the universities as victims of fraud, a narrative the schools themselves willfully accepted.

The central figure of the case was Christian Dawkins, with whom Wade had a relationship with due to Dawkins' connections to some recruits. Dawkins was attempting to start his own business endeavor that would, in theory, become an agency for representation and marketing for athletes. At the time, Dawkins did not realize his company was secretly being bankrolled by the FBI, which was investigating fraudulent behavior in recruiting.

In 2019, an HBO-produced documentary entitled "The Scheme" obtained the wiretaps of Wade talking to Dawkins. The wiretap below dates back to 2017, as it was part of the FBI's probe. Here is a transcript of the call from the documentary:

WADE: Hopefully (Jaron) Blossomgame's not blowing you up too much right now.

DAWKINS: Well listen, I mean [expletive], he could be playing for LSU or some [expletive]. He could have fifth-year eligibility and if he doesn't get drafted like Randolph Morris or some [expletive] like that.

WADE: We'll take that. We'll take it. 

DAWKINS: I know you will. I know you will.

WADE: We could compensate him better than the rookie minimum. 

DAWKINS (laughing): You probably right about that, too.

WADE: We'd give him more than the the D-League.

DAWKINS: Exactly. Exactly. God bless us all. God bless us all. So, what's the good word, though?

WADE: All right I was thinking last night on this (Javonte) Smart thing. Like, I'll be honest with you, I'm [expletive] tired of dealing with the thing. Like I'm just [expletive] sick of dealing with this [expletive]. What do you think, 'cause I went to him with a [expletive] strong-ass offer about a month ago. [Expletive] strong. Now, the problem was, I know why he didn't take it now -- it was [expletive] tilted toward the family a little bit. But I mean it was a [expletive] hell of a [expletive] offer. Like, hell of an offer. Especially for a kid who's going to be a two- or three-year kid.


WADE: I've made deals for as good a players as him that were [expletive] a lot simpler than this.

Dawkins, speaking into a camera for "The Scheme," later says about Wade: "100% talking about money. Just audacity, you gotta take your hat off to him, man. He, not only didn't get charged for anything, not only did the government have all this information and evidence and nothing was happening on a criminal level, he also basically just said 'f--- you' to the NCAA and to the university he worked for. Man, that was some G shit. And he said 'f--- you' to the people that wasn't with him and he still got to keep his job and make millions of dollars. It's like the perfect storm. This is the life. Shit, they're paying him a lot money to win games, bro. … Will Wade is definitely a f---ing gangster for what he did."

Wade's contract at McNeese State is worth $1.175 million over five years. The school cut down on four of its official visits for the 2023-24 year and has prohibited Wade from recruiting on the road this spring and summer. The terms of Wade's contract also have him "banned from all recruiting conversations between Sept. 1, 2023, through Oct. 15, 2023. McNeese State also brought aboard a compliance offer specifically to oversee Wade, and he's required to submit weekly reports on all of his recruiting activities.