Tiger players say little in first interviews since Wade suspension, Smart benching; investigation overshadows celebration

Tiger players say little in first interviews since Wade suspension, Smart benching; investigation overshadows celebration
LSU head coach Will Wade (Source: Josh Auzenne)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - In their first post-game interviews since the alleged off-court antics of Tigers head coach Will Wade cast a spotlight on the team’s recruiting practices, LSU basketball players and members of the coaching staff said little.

POST GAME: LSU basketball players talk about winning SEC title

The situation, in which Wade is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) as a witness, and by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) for potential recruiting violations, an offense which would carry no criminal charges, overshadowed what should have been a celebration for the Tigers who earned the Southeastern Conference regular-season title against Vanderbilt.

The remaining members of the team, who are not involved in the situation, bore the brunt of questions into Wade’s current state of mind.

Many players responded to reporter’s questions by saying they had no comment.

Outside of a statement released following his suspension, Wade has made himself unavailable to members of the media who he critiques have reported developments that “do not begin to tell the full story.” The FBI and NCAA have also been quiet about their reported ongoing investigations.

Supporters of Wade were triggered by his use of the word “has” in the following sentence from his statement:

“Serving as the Head Basketball Coach at LSU has been the honor of my life.”

However, rumors that Wade would resign from his role, or be fired by the university were quickly dispelled by LSU officials who told WAFB any talk of Wade leaving is premature. Those officials said the hope is for the two sides to focus on a resolution.

You can read Wade’s full statement below:

"Serving as the Head Basketball Coach at LSU has been the honor of my life. I love this university and all it stands for. From day one, I’ve been focused on building a winning program made up of excellent coaches and staff and a team of first-rate student athletes.

I cannot comment at this time on various media reports, except to say that they do not begin to tell the full story. I understand the University had to take action before all the facts are in, but I would ask everyone to withhold their judgment until the record is complete.

To my players and coaches, I support you 100%, and I will be with you in spirit as the season progresses. Your best response to this is to narrow your focus and make sure the last part of the season is the strongest part!"

On Friday, March 8 LSU announced Wade had been suspended indefinitely following a media frenzy over an alleged conversation recorded by the FBI. On the recording, Wade is allegedly heard getting frustrated while discussing an “offer” which had not yet been accepted by a recruit, believed to be LSU freshman guard Ja’Vonte Smart.

Yahoo Sports transcribed a portion of the alleged conversation which you can read below.

“I was thinking last night on this Smart thing,” Wade said. “I’ll be honest with you, I’m [expletive] tired of dealing with the thing. Like I’m just [expletive] sick of dealing with the [expletive]. Like, this should not be that [expletive] complicated.”

“Dude,” Wade continued to Dawkins, referring to the third party involved in the recruitment, “I went to him with a [expletive] strong-ass offer about a month ago. [Expletive] strong.

“The problem was, I know why he didn’t take it now, it was [expletive] tilted toward the family a little bit,” Wade continued. “It was tilted toward taking care of the mom, taking care of the kid. Like it was tilted towards that. Now I know for a fact he didn’t explain everything to the mom. I know now, he didn’t get enough of the piece of the pie in the deal.”

Sources with knowledge of the situation told WAFB that Wade was asked to come in and speak to LSU’s top-ranking officials on the allegations but Wade declined to do so. President and chancellor F. King Alexander and athletics director Joe Alleva reportedly felt they were then left with no choice but to suspend Wade.

Only a day later, LSU’s athletics department confirmed via a statement Smart would sit out a game against Vanderblit scheduled later in the evening. The statement said the move was made because of the “lack of clarity provided regarding media reports and reported wiretaps involving Head Coach Will Wade.”

USA today reports the FBI investigation partially centered on Dawkins, the man at the other end of that call with Wade, among others. Dawkins along with former Adidas employees James Gatto and Merl Code were all arrested. Code and Dawkins were each sentenced to six months in prison Tuesday, while Gatto received a nine-month sentence.

Three college assistants — one each at Arizona, Oklahoma State and USC — we’re also allegedly ensnared in the investigation, USA today reports.

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