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Media Update on Wade, Smart’s Status

LSU’s embattled basketball coach isn’t likely returning anytime soon.

NCAA Basketball: Vanderbilt at Louisiana State Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

In a report from The Advocate today, the status of LSU basketball coach Will Wade and freshman guard Javonte Smart were both updated, with the latter possibly returning soon and the former...well...probably never.

Wade’s attorney wrote LSU on Tuesday that the coach would talk about allegations once the pending federal criminal investigation into corruption in college basketball concludes, according to a copy of the letter obtained first by The Advocate through a public records request.

That appears to make Wade’s return anytime this season unlikely, no matter how deep of a run the No. 9 Tigers make in the upcoming NCAA tournament unless the coach decides to reverse course, given that defense attorneys are expected to subpoena Wade to testify at a federal criminal trial scheduled to start April 22, well after the championship game.

Athletic director Joe Alleva and other LSU officials made clear Wade could return this season if he changes his mind, agrees to a meeting, provides an explanation for his reported comments on the FBI wiretaps and denies wrongdoing.

”If he (Wade) decides to come in and talk and is persuasive, then Joe (Alleva) and the president ... are going to be faced with the decision as to whether to reinstate him,” said Tom Skinner, LSU’s general counsel and vice president for legal affairs. “But ... we’re not there yet.”

Wade’s attorney couldn’t be reached for comment Wednesday.

Smart could possibly be back by Friday’s SEC Tournament opener.

LSU officials already questioned Smart and his mother, Melinda, about the reported wiretaps and any potential NCAA violations of NCAA rules. Skinner, the LSU general counsel, said NCAA investigators participated in those interviews.

The university also located two other people who might be in the unnamed handler referenced in the wiretapped calls, said Skinner, the LSU general counsel. Skinner didn’t identify either by name but said they agreed to speak with the university.

”We hope to be done today or tomorrow,” Skinner told The Advocate on Wednesday.

The report also continued to shed light on the events of last week that led to Wade’s suspension — namely that LSU asked Wade to meet with NCAA representatives in the room. That’s difficult to fathom.

For one, few lawyers are going to recommend that any client discuss upcoming Federal court testimony without their presence. For another, the presence of an NCAA investigator is a complete lose-lose situation given the uncertain nature of this investigation. A denial is meaningless — LSU hasn’t even received an official Notice of Allegations, and until that comes down, there’s not even a real charge to dispute. There’s no reason for anyone to go on record with the NCAA until they absolutely have to. Plus, otherwise, Wade would essentially be admitting firable cause to his bosses.

And I patently refuse to believe the officials involved here on LSU’s end — which, in addition to the university council, includes a former defense attorney in Board of Supervisors Chair James Williams — truly expected Wade to come in and talk.

It’s far more likely that this was designed to begin the process of dismissing Wade, and providing cover until cause to fire him without a buyout becomes evident. If that cause never reveals itself, LSU is going to have a heck of a time explaining all this to any other potential future coaching candidate.

There’s no question that it’s true that Will Wade put himself and LSU in position with pretty reckless phone calls. Yes, he couldn’t have known that Christian Dawkins’ phone was tapped, but he has a staff to make these kind of phone calls for a reason. And regardless of your beliefs regarding amateurism or the NCAA in general — I’m not really interested in arguing the point, and to be honest the point rarely gets argued in the first place — the only thing that’s really clear right now is LSU is without a coach and a star player, without any clear benefit to the decision.