Brace Yourselves, SEC Basketball About to get hit as LSU, Wade Story Grows
If you haven't heard the name Christian Dawkins or the story of his involvement in the alleged pay for play scandals in both LSU and Arizona basketball then you must have been living under a rock or in a third world country with no internet or media.
Here's a quick recap, without going too deep in detail- I'll leave that for you to see later this month when HBO releases its documentary, and share with you the link to read Sports Illustrated's Pat Forde's account after having watched it recently- which starts with Dawkins, a would-be sports agent who was involved with both coaches and made recordings of both Tigers head coach Will Wade ( a Nashville native) and Wildcats head man Sean Miller in conversations with him discussing paying players to play at their schools.
Wade was the focal point of media attention and stories around the southeast when this story originally came to light and he along with Dawkins and Miller are central figures in a federal investigation into corruption in college basketball.
Yahoo Sports reported some of the wiretaps last year, most notably the infamous Wade “strong-ass offer” recording. The story was accurate then, and the audio verifies it now.
While the already released tapes of Wade's comments drew cries for LSU to fire him months ago, the Tigers resisted, allowing Wade to continue to coach the team through the 2020 season.
The audio—some of which was not entered into federal court and has never been heard before—will provide pertinent, first-hand information for NCAA investigators working to finalize cases involving LSU and Arizona. Much of that information comes from the mouths of the coaches themselves. That’s a significant development.
While the SEC as a whole will not be directly impacted, this will be another black eye for the conference that has had enough of them in its history.
While most of the scandals for the conference have centered around football, there was the Kentucky issue in which a Kentucky booster was alleged to have sent cash to then recruit Chris Mills in 1988 before Mills signed with the Wildcats.
Kentucky was the center of a wide-ranging investigation by the NCAA that landed the Wildcats on NCAA probation and ushered in the Rick Pitino era in Lexington.
Speaking of Pitino, he too was the subject of a recent federal investigation into corruption while the head coach at Louisville. He was just recently hired as the new head coach at Iona after spending time abroad coaching in a professional league.
There have been other league schools in other non-revenue sports that have faced probation, but none the scope of the Kentucky scandal, until now.
What has happened at LSU will likely top the Mills situation and likely land the Tigers a near-death blow for their basketball program when all is said and done here.
The tapes that have already been released are damning to Wade, and from the Forde article, the remaining tapes that have not been made public are even more so.
It's hard to see Wade and the Tigers skating on this one, but then most people thought North Carolina would be dealt a severe punishment for their academic scandal. Instead, they won a basketball national championship and walked away scotfree.
This one, however, is different and the likelihood of LSU being hammered and the SEC receiving another black eye is all but a certainty.
Having never been formally introduced to Wade, but having sat in the post-game interview room with him following his Tigers 99-90 loss to Vanderbilt this past season, it would be easy to assume,- if you hadn't heard the first tapes- that the babyfaced young coach was as innocent as could be, but that certainly does not appear to be the case.
Dawkins on Wade: “Just the audacity, you’ve got to take your hat off to him, bro. … Will Wade is definitely a f------ gangster for what he did.”
There will be no direct impact on Vanderbilt or any other school not named LSU in all this, but there will be more cries from fans of other conferences and teams who site corruption and that it is more widespread than just one school.
Long has been the perception that Kentucky under current head coach John Calipari has been skirting the rules as he continues to land the nation's best recruiting classes on an almost yearly basis. None of this has ever been proven, but that hasn't stopped it's continued repetition and the use by others to recruit against the Cats and the conference.
What's going on in Baton Rouge won't change that perception nationally, and will allow other teams to use this as recruiting fodder for the next few seasons. After all, any ammunition coaches can use with recruits is good ammunition, and they will turn this on the entire conference, not just the guilty.
The wiretapped audio of Dawkins talking to LSU coach Will Wade and Arizona coach Sean Miller, among others, will be available to a worldwide audience on March 31 on HBO at 9 p.m. EDT. You can hear and judge for yourself then and read Forde's account after viewing it here or at the link above.
In the meantime, prepare yourselves to once again hear how the SEC is the most corrupt conference in the country because those claims will definitely be coming sooner than later.