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McNeese State coach Will Wade hit with penalties and 10-game suspension for LSU violations

Former LSU and current McNeese State men’s basketball coach Will Wade received a two-year show-cause penalty and a 10-game suspension Thursday for multiple rules violations, ending a slow-moving case originally rooted in a federal corruption investigation into the sport.

The ruling came from a panel of the Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP). It determined Wade failed to report potential violations, as well as making payments to the ex-fiancée of a former player — who he had coached before arriving at LSU in 2017 — to prevent the disclosure of potential violations.

Additionally, the panel found Wade failed to cooperate with the investigation running from December 2018 to August 2021, specifically by delaying full production of requested records and knowingly providing false or misleading information.

While Wade’s case grew from the federal corruption probe, chief panel member Bruce Meyerson said the majority of allegations brought in this case were unrelated — and ultimately no violation was determined from an oft-cited FBI wiretap involving Wade.

LSU fired Wade in March 2022 and he was hired by McNeese State earlier this year.

Wade’s show-cause penalty through June 2025 means Wade cannot perform any off-campus recruiting activities during April and summer evaluation periods. There are also additional recruiting restrictions against Wade, who was determined to have committed three Level I violations — considered a severe breach of conduct — that include the rule governing overall head-coach responsibility for conduct within a program.

The case also included violations tied to the Tigers’ football program and the school had self-imposed penalties for both sports, though the panel added three years of probation to begin this fall after the expiration of a school probation term already in place. Meyerson, a retired appeals court judge, said in a Zoom call with reporters that the panel sought to avoid imposing penalties hitting LSU athletes uninvolved in cases from years earlier.

The federal corruption investigation became public in September 2017. The cases that grew from that eventually entangled numerous schools, then notably touched Wade after 2019 reports about leaked wiretap excerpts that captured him speaking with someone convicted of funneling illegal payments to the families of recruits.

In transcripts of the phone call, Wade discussed presenting a “strong” offer to an apparent third party who represented then-LSU player Javonte Smart.

Meyerson said the panel didn’t find sufficient evidence beyond the excerpt alone to conclude a violation. NCAA vice president of hearing operations Derrick Crawford said investigators were unable to obtain a full version of the wiretap.

“The NCAA made a number of efforts to obtain that piece of evidence from the federal government and they turned us down,” Crawford said.

In a statement posted to its athletics site, McNeese State said the penalty would replace a five-game suspension and one-year show-cause penalty it had imposed after Wade’s hiring.

“We accept and respect today’s decision by the IARP in regards to Coach Wade,” athletics director Heath Schroyer said. “We are all happy this is finally behind us and we have clarity moving forward. We have been proactive from the beginning in respecting the NCAA’s process and in regards to protecting the integrity of our institution. That will not change moving forward.

“The enthusiasm around this program is at an all-time high and we are all excited about the future of McNeese Basketball with (Wade) leading the way.”

LSU president William F. Tate IV and athletics director Scott Woodward issued a joint statement, saying they were “pleased that our current men’s basketball student-athletes will not be punished for the acts of others” and that the panel accepted self-imposed football penalties.

“We are grateful to the members of the panel for their time and fairness,” they said. “LSU is now moving forward along with our passionate fans supporting our current coaches and student-athletes in both men’s basketball and football.”

The panel’s ruling included a fine for both the men’s basketball and football programs in addition to probation, vacated records and the self-imposed penalties.

The IARP was created to handle complex cases and emerged out of proposals from the 2018 commission led by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to reform the sport. It will be eliminated after completing its slate of referred cases, a move announced last summer as the NCAA attempts to modernize its infractions process and make it move more efficiently.

The IARP took on six cases, five of which — Arizona, LSU, Louisville, Kansas and North Carolina State — had ties to the federal probe. The other involved Memphis and the recruitment of one-and-done big man James Wiseman.

N.C. State was the first of those cases to push through the system and reach a ruling in December 2021, while the LSU ruling leaves only Kansas with a case still pending in the IARP.

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Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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