LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — University of Louisville fans have squawked about the NCAA issues that have percolated around the school’s basketball program, but none of the squawks has been louder than this one:
Why has Rick Pitino been the only head coach who has lost his job in the fallout from the play-for-pay scandal that started rattling through the game in September of 2017?
But you can argue that could be a secondary question if Dan Wetzel, Pat Forde and Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports keep splashing uncomfortable news into the foxholes of more programs as they’ve done in recent weeks.
Their latest installment that made social media surge came Thursday afternoon. They reported that the FBI intercepted a 2017 telephone conversation between Louisiana State basketball coach Will Wade and agent/middleman/basketball wannabe Christian Dawkins that features Wade saying, among other things, that he made a “strong-ass offer,” during the recruitment of a prospect.
Yes, that is the same Dawkins whose connection to former U of L recruit Brian Bowen came wrapped in the promise of $100,000 and led to the dismissal of Pitino and two of his assistants.
(For the record, Pitino has never been charged and has steadfastly professed his innocence. His dismissal was also connected to the stripper and prostitution scandal that resulted in the NCAA vacating U of L’s 2013 NCAA title.)
Yes, that is the same Wade who has coached LSU into an unexpected tie first-place with Tennessee (ahead of Kentucky) in the Southeastern Conference.
If the Yahoo! Report is accurate (and Wetzel, Forde and Thamel have delivered hit after hit in this story), Wade and LSU are on the brink of creating an extremely awkward moment for SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey, who usually presents to the trophy to the SEC regular-season champion during the league’s conference tournament.
This is Wade’s second season at LSU. Cynics started chattering not long after Wade arrived from Virginia Commonwealth. His first recruiting class featured Tremont Waters, the No. 44 prospect and No. 10 point guard nationally in the Class of 2017.
Waters is from West Haven, Conn. His original commitment was to Georgetown. But Waters signed with LSU, the fifth school he visited after taking his first four official trips to Georgetown, Kansas, Kentucky and Indiana.
Hey, maybe Waters grew up idolizing Pete Maravich or Shaquille O’Neal.
In 2018, Wade took it up a notch. The Tigers recruiting class was ranked No. 3 nationally by Rivals and No. 4 by 247Sports. According to the consensus rankings, Duke and Kentucky were the only two programs that collected better classes.
Reasonable observers noted that is not the neighborhood typically connected with LSU basketball recruiting.
LSU’s 2018 class featured seven players, four of which were ranked in the Top 60 nationally by 247Sports. One was from Louisiana with a pair from nearby Texas, two more from Florida, one from New Jersey and another from Virginia.
The third-highest ranked player in the group was Javonte Smart, a guard from Scotlandville, La. He picked LSU over offers from Alabama, Baylor, Florida State, Kansas, Ohio State, Oklahoma and others, according to 247 Sports.
According to the Yahoo! story, Wade expressed frustration that a third-party involved in the recruitment of one prospect was slow to accept Wade’s “offer.”
“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.”
LSU head coach Will Wade was talking to fans today at a luncheon when the Yahoo Sports report broke regarding further phone calls with Chris Dawkins that the FBI is investigating. We spoke with him immediately after and here's what he said. #LSU pic.twitter.com/b0vZ003wNi— Michael Cauble (@Cauble) March 7, 2019
The Yahoo! story says there is no elaboration on what the “Smart thing,” was. Maybe it was a strong-ass amount of playing time or a strong-ass seat on the team plane. In recruiting, you never know.
Neither Dawkins nor Wade nor LSU administrators nor Smart’s mother commented to Yahoo! on the story.
That did not stop the rest of the college basketball world from wondering how many other coaches and programs will be brought into this story. It is quickly moving forward after Dawkins, Adidas consultant Merl Code and Adidas executive James Gatto received sentences many observers considered lenient from a federal judge in New York City on Tuesday.
In April, Dawkins and Code will return to the courtroom for a second trial. Yahoo! has reported that defense attorneys are in the process of filing subpoenas for Wade and Arizona coach Sean Miller.
Steve Haney, the attorney who represents Dawkins, said that he plans to subpoena as many coaches as he can get in the courtroom.
“We are going to pull back the curtains,” Haney told Yahoo.
When the curtains roll back, the chances are that Pitino will no longer be the only head college basketball coach pushed to the sidelines.
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