Former L.S.U. Men’s Basketball Coach Will Wade Suspended for 10 Games

Will Wade, the men’s college basketball coach recently hired by McNeese State, has been suspended for 10 games next season, bringing to a close a lengthy N.C.A.A. investigation into the football and basketball programs at Louisiana State, the Southeastern Conference powerhouse Wade formerly coached.

A review panel on Thursday ruled that L.S.U. failed to monitor its marquee programs, which were found to have improperly funneled payments to a recruit, paid hush money to keep recruiting violations quiet and allowed the N.F.L. star Odell Beckham Jr., a former L.S.U. wide receiver, to hand out wads of cash to players after the national championship football game in January 2020.

But the independent arbiters did little to add to the school’s self-imposed penalties beyond extending the university’s probation by three years. They also did not cite Wade for the most notorious charge: brazen plans to lure recruits with illicit payments, described by Wade on a federal wiretap, which was first reported by Yahoo and then later broadcast in an HBO documentary.

But because the N.C.A.A. said the federal government rebuffed its attempts to acquire recordings or transcripts, the panel did not have enough credible information to penalize Wade for it, according to Bruce Meyerson, a retired judge who chaired the independent panel.

Another formal complaint dismissed for insufficient evidence was that Wade directed payments from a bank account in his wife’s name to a friend of a recruit’s family, who in exchange would direct the prospect to L.S.U. But Wade successfully argued that because he was not an authorized user of the account that was jointly held by his wife and his mother, he could not compel them to turn the account records over to N.C.A.A. investigators.

The panel also did not find credible evidence of the formal complaint alleging that a former assistant coach, Bill Armstrong, had offered to provide a recruit’s family or associates with $300,000 in cash, as well as providing a job, an apartment and a car for the player’s cousin.

The most serious breach was Wade not informing university officials of an alleged extortion attempt in which a onetime player’s former fiancée threatened to go to the N.C.A.A. with a list of recruiting violations that Wade had committed.

In the end, though, Wade was punished mostly for lies, misleading statements and repeated delays in turning over documents in the investigation.

In addition to the 10-game suspension, Wade is prohibited from off-campus recruiting and has other recruiting restrictions placed on him for two years, but those restrictions may have less impact on a team relying more on the transfer portal to build its roster.

The N.C.A.A. decision brings to an end a drama that began more than four years ago when Yahoo reported on a federal wiretap that had captured Wade saying he’d made “a strong-ass offer” to Javonte Smart, who played at L.S.U. and then briefly in the N.B.A.

Wade was suspended for the 2019 N.C.A.A. tournament after he refused to speak with L.S.U., but reinstated a month later. “You need evidence to ruin somebody’s career,” F. King Alexander, the former L.S.U. president, told The New York Times last year, adding: “Presidents have to follow due process rights. Was he paying players? In my gut, I’d say, yeah, but my gut doesn’t do very well in a jury trial.”

Ultimately, though, Wade was fired just before the 2022 N.C.A.A. tournament, when L.S.U. was given a notice of the allegations by the N.C.A.A.

He was hired one year and one day later at McNeese State, which became the latest school to bring buzz to a lifeless program by hiring a coach who had been swept up in a federal corruption sting. Iona had enlisted Rick Pitino, and Xavier brought in Sean Miller for a second tenure there after his run ended at Arizona. Pitino has since moved on to St. John’s.

The day after McNeese State hired Wade, it announced that he would serve a five-game suspension. There was little disappointment on Thursday from the school, which is tucked away in Lake Charles, La., in the southwestern corner of the state.

The athletic director, Heath Schroyer, did not return a phone message, but he said in a statement that his school, which has not had a winning record in men’s basketball since the 2011-12 season, accepted the decision and was ready to move forward.

“The enthusiasm around this program is at an all-time high,” he said. “And we are all excited about the future of McNeese Basketball with coach leading the way.”

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