The Will Wade saga took another turn this weekend, as Yahoo breathlessly reported that FBI agents were in Baton Rouge to investigate him.
Pete Thamel then takes the logical leap that “The FBI’s interest in Wade’s recruiting tactics could potentially signal an expansion in the federal basketball corruption case. An FBI agent who was in Baton Rouge declined comment when reached by Yahoo Sports.”
Ummm… yeah. So, the FBI wouldn’t comment on why it was investigating Wade, so Yahoo reported that it signaled an expansion of the investigation. This reporting held up for a good hour or two, before ESPN weighed in on the case.
Mark Schlabach did some actual reporting instead of just guessing what FBI agents investigating a witness in a federal trial might mean, and reported that federal prosecutors were asking the judge to prevent Wade from testifying.
So what did the FBI investigators find? Well, glad you asked. From the ESPN article:
The government also argued in its motion that the defendants’ plan to illicit testimony from Miller and Wade that Dawkins didn’t bribe them, even though they might have the most influence over their players, is irrelevant.
”Defendant Dawkins has proffered that he intends to call both coaches to testify about how much influence, as a head coach, they have over their student-athletes and how Dawkins did not bribe them,” the motion stated. “To the extent that the defendants, as Dawkins’s counsel suggested, seeks to introduce evidence that they dealt with men’s basketball coaches who they did not bribe, such evidence would constitute impermissible ‘good acts’ evidence and should be precluded.”
That’s right, Will Wade planned on testifying about how Dawkins did NOT bribe him. The FBI wasn’t “possibly expanding” the case, the FBI was instead trying to narrow the case for the prosecutors.
In a civil trial, lawyers often hire investigators to find out information about the witnesses, primarily to see if their stories check out. It’s simple due diligence, and not allowing yourself to get ambushed at trial.
Now, federal prosecutors don’t hire private investigators. They get to ask the FBI to investigate for them. So it was entirely normal that FBI investigators were in Baton Rouge to research the potential testimony of a person named on the witness list. This didn’t hint at a nefarious deed or the expansion of the FBI probe, but simply the mundane task of lawyers doing their jobs.
The key information here is that the feds believe Wade is going to talk about all of the times Dawkins didn’t bribe him, which isn’t really a defense for the times other coaches did bribe him, especially since Wade isn’t named in the complaint. No one, other than Yahoo Sports, is accusing Wade and Dawkins of engaging in a bribery scheme.
More importantly, it seems that based upon this that we aren’t seeing an expansion of the federal probe into Wade. I won’t venture to guess how likely the federal motion is to succeed, but let’s at least say there is a chance that Wade will be barred from testifying. (There is also the strong possibility Wade is named to the witness list yet never testifies at all, even if the federal motion fails).
This makes me believe even stronger in my initial belief that it was Dawkins’ attorneys who leaked Wade’s transcript, so as to put pressure on him and also garner negative feeling towards the NCAA for the future trial. They don’t really care about Wade, but they do care about poisoning the well for the NCAA.
And look, they are right. The NCAA is a hopelessly corrupt institution desperately clinging to an outdated model of amateurism that potentially criminalizes the perfectly legal activity of getting paid to play a sport on behalf of a multi-billion dollar industry.
What this means for Wade and LSU is that it seems like there is at least some hope for the two to kiss and make up. If Wade does not testify, the full transcripts never become public, and the NCAA fails to find any wrongdoing on the part of Javonte Smart then it seems to follow that the NCAA doesn’t have much of a case against LSU and Wade.
Without a witness or any real evidence, it’s going to be hard to make a case. Stranger things have happened, but even the twin hammerings of Missouri and Ole Miss required a cooperative witness. If there is no NCAA investigation, then it is just a matter of Wade and LSU assuaging their hurt feelings over the failure to meet with one another.
This still requires LSU to blink to take Wade back, which certainly will not happen until after the trial. LSU hasn’t gone this far down this path to take Wade back only to have him burn the school in open court. I still don’t think these two will reconcile, but it seems more likely this week than it did last week, and LSU’s chances of surviving this round of public scrutiny seem a lot better in the wake of the feds showing their hand.
In short, Will Wade is not a suspect. But he’s not our coach again just yet.