The black cloud that’s been hovering over LSU basketball took another turn on Tuesday evening. Based on the records of a FOIA request obtained by the Advocate, the NCAA investigation into coach Will Wade might be heading to an independent panel for review.
The group, called the Independent Accountability Resolution Process, is a panel that was formed to “handle complex NCAA infractions.” While no allegations against Wade or the basketball program have been sent to the LSU athletic department, the NCAA is leaving it up to the panel to decide if Level 1 or Level 2 infractions were committed.
The IARP Infractions Referral Committee will decide whether to approve or reject the referral request according to the Advocate’s reporting. The referral from two NCAA committees reportedly stems from Wade’s “lack of cooperation” to provide cell phone records for 13 months.
“The NCAA made repeated requests between September 2018 and the arrival of the records in January 2020,” the Advocate reported.
LSU didn’t object to the NCAA committee referring the basketball case to the IARP though it only agreed to the referral to the IARP against Wade and the basketball program, not the three investigations currently involving the LSU football program, which are detailed below:
- The father of offensive lineman Vadal Alexander received $180,000 in stolen money from LSU booster John Paul Funes, who admitted in 2019 that he embezzled more than half a million dollars from Our Lady of the Lake Hospital in Baton Rouge. The money was payment from 2012–17 for what the NCAA characterized as a “no-show job,” according to The Advocate.
- Former LSU standout Odell Beckham’s cash payments to players immediately after the Tigers won the College Football Playoff championship game in January. LSU officials initially told reporters that Beckham was handing out fake money, but later retracted that assertion after quarterback Joe Burrow acknowledged in an interview that the cash was real. LSU said the payments totaled $2,000, which Duncan characterized as a Level III violation.
- An impermissible recruiting contact in January 2019 by LSU football coach Ed Orgeron. The Advocate said the school self-imposed recruiting restrictions on Orgeron.
If the IARP finds that LSU committed Level 1 or Level 2 infractions, it allows the university to fire Wade with cause. When Wade elected to meet with university officials after serving 37 days of a suspension in 2019, part of the terms of his suspension being lifted was reworking his contract so the school could move on if Level 1 or Level 2 infractions were handed down.
Of course this all stems from the alleged wire tap conversations that caught Wade speaking of a “strong ass offer” in regards to Javonte Smart’s recruitment. In an initial story published by Yahoo Sports, Wade told Dawkins:
“Dude,” Wade said to Dawkins, “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.”
“There has been some question among those with experience in NCAA investigative circles whether the wiretap is enough to form the basis of a formal violation charge. It was never introduced as evidence in the federal trials, and The Yahoo Sports story might not have been constituted firsthand evidence, enforcement experts told Sports Illustrated.”
On Wednesday morning, ESPN reported that the NCAA says Wade “either arranged for or offered” at least 11 potential recruits “impermissible payments.”
"[Wade] arranged for, offered and/or provided impermissible payments, including cash payments, to at least 11 men's basketball prospective student-athletes, their family members, individuals associated with the prospects and/or nonscholastic coaches in exchange for the prospects' enrollment at LSU,” ESPN’s Mark Schlabach reports.
Again just to recap, no allegations have been handed down to the LSU basketball program at this time. Essentially the NCAA has passed the case on for more review to the IARP.
If Level 1 or Level 2 transgressions are eventually found by the committee, the Tigers could very well be looking for a new basketball coach.