Embattled LSU coach Will Wade claimed in a new statement Thursday that he was advised not to agree to a joint interview with the university and NCAA regarding his involvement in the federally investigated recruiting scandal.
Wade was placed on administrative leave by LSU last week. Wade has guided the Tigers (26-5, 16-2 SEC) into position for a potential No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. By beating Vanderbilt over the weekend, the Tigers claimed the regular season SEC championship.
Wade wants to get back to the bench for the conference tournament.
"This morning, I advised President (F. King) Alexander, athletic director Joe Alleva and the LSU Board of Supervisors that I would like to resume my duties as head basketball coach," Wade said in a statement Thursday morning. "... When the university decided to place me on administrative leave, I accepted the decision without complaint as I knew that they wanted to reflect on the flurry of media reports. With the benefit of a week to consider the circumstances, I believe university officials should allow me to resume my duties."
Assistant coach Tony Benford has been named interim coach for the Tigers and will coach the team in Friday's SEC tournament opener against the winner of Arkansas and Florida.
Yahoo Sports last week first reported details about an alleged 2017 conversation Wade and basketball middleman Christian Dawkins discussing an offer to a recruit.
Yahoo Sports, referencing a tape, said a conversation between the two shows Wade's frustrations over a "Smart thing," with the coach allegedly saying he was "sick of dealing" with it, and that it should not be all that "complicated."
"The problem was, I know why he didn't take it now, it was (expletive) tilted toward the family a little bit," Wade said, according to the report. "It was tilted toward taking care of the mom, taking care of the kid. Like it was tilted towards that. Now I know for a fact he didn't explain everything to the mom. I know now, he didn't get enough of the piece of the pie in the deal."
Wade said Thursday he understands it is difficult for "any organization, particularly a public university, to stand firm in the face of rumors, leaks and innuendo."
"The simple truth is I have been placed on leave because I exercised by right not to submit to a joint LSU/NCAA interview on the exact same subject matter at issue in an impending federal criminal trial in New York. My legal counsel advised the university that it would be wholly inappropriate for me, or anyone, to submit to an interview under these circumstances.
"Declining to be interviewed was a difficult decision for me, as I would like to cooperate fully with all parties, particularly LSU. To be clear, however, all I've done is follow the prudent advice of counsel to exercise my constitutional rights to due process. Given these facts, I don't believe it is appropriate for me to be relieved of my duties.
"... I love LSU and everything it stands for. What I'm asking for is the right to do my job while exercising my constitutional rights. I don't think that's too much to ask."
--Field Level Media