LSU has received a notice of allegations regarding its men’s basketball program, sources told Sports Illustrated on Tuesday, a major step in the process of resolving an infractions case that dates back to the 2017 federal investigation of corruption in the sport.
LSU officials did not acknowledge receipt of the NOA when contacted by SI on Tuesday. The NOA originated from the Complex Case Unit of the Independent Accountability Review Process—the so-called off-ramp for more complicated and contentious NCAA investigations. If coach Will Wade is charged with a major violation, he could be terminated with cause, according to a contract amendment he agreed to in April 2019. Wade’s attorney, Steve Thompson, did not immediately respond to a call from Sports Illustrated.
It is unclear whether LSU would exercise that option without waiting for the full resolution of the case, which will take months. The Tigers (21–10), who are set to play in their third consecutive NCAA tournament next week, open play in the Southeastern Conference tournament Thursday.
The basketball infractions case was combined with violations uncovered within the football program. Those included a booster paying the father of a player $180,000 for a no-show job and former star player Odell Beckham Jr. paying LSU players cash on the field immediately after the Tigers won the 2019 national championship in New Orleans. With a 3–5 record late in the ’20 season, LSU self-imposed a bowl ban in reaction to the violations; the school had previously reduced its number of scholarships and limited some elements of its recruiting.
In 2017, Wade was caught on FBI wiretaps with aspiring agent Christian Dawkins discussing a “strong-ass offer” for prospect Javonte Smart, who went on to play three seasons for Wade at LSU. Dawkins recently reported to federal prison in Alabama to begin serving an 18-month sentence on bribery and conspiracy charges. Former Adidas executives James Gatto and Merl Code also are serving time for their roles, and several former assistant coaches were found guilty as well.
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On an HBO documentary called The Scheme, which profiled Dawkins and the case, featured wiretapped audio of Wade saying the following: “I was thinking last night on this Smart thing. I’ll be honest with you, I’m f—— tired of dealing with the thing. Like I’m just f—— sick of dealing with the s—.
“I went to him with a f—— strong-ass offer about a month ago. F—— strong. But the problem was, I know why he didn’t take it now, because it was it was f—— tilted toward the family a little bit. But I mean, it was a f—— hell of a f—— offer. Hell of an offer. Especially for a kid who is going to be a two- or three-year kid. I’ve made deals for a lot of players who are as good as him that were f—— a lot simpler than this.”
Dawkins’s on-camera interpretation of Wade’s comments: “They ain’t talking about a scholarship offer, bro. One-hundred percent talking about money.”
The combined football and basketball cases increase the chance that LSU will be cited for a lack of institutional control or failure to monitor in the notice of allegations.
LSU now has several weeks to file a response to the charges. The CCU will file its own response and a hearing will be held with a ruling thereafter. Those steps in the laborious process will likely take several months, but the ruling would be final. There is no appeal built into the IARP.
The IARP has resolved just one of six cases since its formation in August 2019. That involved North Carolina State, which also was implicated in the FBI investigation of college basketball. N.C. State did not receive a postseason ban despite the hearing panel ruling that there were multiple Level 1 violations. Former head coach Mark Gottfried was assessed a one-year show-cause penalty and former assistant Orlando Early was hit with a six-year show-cause. Gottfried already had been placed on administrative leave at his latest head-coaching job, at Cal State–Northridge, for a separate investigation there.
Cases involving Louisville, Arizona, Kansas and Memphis are still churning through the IARP, which has been harshly criticized for being slow and costly.