LSU reinstates coach Wade after NCAA meeting

LSU has reinstated Will Wade as its men’s basketball coach, Tigers athletic director Joe Alleva announced Sunday night.

Wade was suspended more than a month ago for not meeting with the school and answering questions regarding his relationship with runner-agent Christian Dawkins. The two sides finally met Friday alongside NCAA compliance officials, and Alleva said he was satisfied with Wade’s responses.

“Coach Wade met Friday with University and NCAA officials,” Alleva said in a statement. “During those meetings, he answered all questions and denied any wrongdoing in connection with recently reported allegations of irregularities in college basketball recruiting.

“The University regrets that Coach Wade did not choose to fulfill his obligations to LSU when he was first asked to do so. However, the seriousness of the allegations and Coach Wade’s prior refusal to refute them could not be ignored without exposing the University and basketball program to great risk. Protecting LSU and preserving our integrity must always be our first priority. Coach Wade’s explanations and clarifications offered during the meeting, absent actual evidence of misconduct, satisfy his contractual obligation to LSU.”

Last month, ESPN and Yahoo Sports reported that in one of the phone calls intercepted by FBI wiretaps, Wade expressed frustration about his inability to close what he described as a “strong-ass offer” for a recruit. ESPN’s Mark Schlabach reported that Wade was frustrated with a handler of Javonte Smart, who was then a top-50 recruit from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and ultimately signed with the Tigers.

After transcripts of the calls were published, LSU suspended Wade on March 8 and named Tony Benford interim head coach. The Tigers clinched the SEC regular-season title the next day with a win over Vanderbilt. Benford guided LSU, a 3-seed in the NCAA tournament, to the Sweet 16 before losing to Michigan State.

“I am humbled and grateful to be back at LSU,” Wade said in a release. “… I regret the circumstances that prevented me from meeting with the University sooner. I wish I could have addressed these issues when the University first requested a meeting, and I’m grateful they gave me the opportunity to do so last week. I completely understand that without my denying or explaining the media reports accusing me of wrongdoing LSU was left with no choice but to suspend me until I was willing and able to meet with them. Any other course of action would have put the program and the University at risk. I look forward to re-joining the team right away.”

A U.S. District Court judge in New York is scheduled to rule Friday whether defense attorneys can subpoena Wade and Arizona coach Sean Miller to testify in an upcoming federal criminal trial involving college basketball corruption.

Earlier this month, federal prosecutors asked Judge Edgardo Ramos to prevent the coaches from testifying in the trial that is scheduled to begin April 22. In that motion, prosecutors indicated that defense attorneys intended to call both coaches to testify “about their involvement in NCAA rule-breaking by paying student athletes.”

Dawkins and former adidas consultant Merl Code face bribery charges involving assistant coaches at Arizona, Oklahoma State and USC.

Wade took over at LSU in the spring of 2017 after two seasons at VCU and two seasons at Chattanooga. He went 18-15 in 2017-18 and then led LSU to a 25-5 record this season before being suspended.

Since the season ended, LSU has seen five players enter their names into the NBA draft: Smart, Tremont Waters, Naz Reid, Skylar Mays and Emmitt Williams. With the new NBA draft rules, players are able to return to school even after signing with an agent.

ESPN’s Mark Schlabach contributed to this report.

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