Lack of institutional control is what LSU fears the most at this point
Since last Thursday's Yahoo Sports story with a FBI wiretap transcript, a college basketball recruiting scandal and LSU head coach Will Wade all mentioned in one breath, the situation smells like a rotting onion with layers peeled back daily.
In the past week, we've witnessed:
Last Thursday: Wade is speaking at a booster luncheon when the Yahoo story is published. Tells media afterwards he can't comment on something he hasn't read.
Last Friday: Wade indefinitely suspended by LSU athletic director Will Wade for refusing to meet and enlighten LSU administrators and NCAA investigators of the FBI tape in which Wade painted himself as blatant cheater.
Saturday morning: Tigers' freshman guard Javonte Smart, whose name was mentioned by Wade in his FBI wiretap taped conversation with a middleman tied to recruiting deals with shoe companies, is suspended pending further investigation.
Saturday night: Alleva is booed like hell from Pete Maravich Center capacity crowd that cheers Tigers to a 21-point win over Vanderbilt to capture the SEC's regular season league championship.
Tuesday: LSU, with interim coach Tony Benford still in charge, go back to practice after two days off. Smart, though ineligible, practices with the squad and will make the trip to Nashvile for the Tigers’ SEC tournament opener Friday at noon.
Wednesday: Alleva and LSU lead counsel Tom Skinner use the safety net of a 45-minute phone interview with the editorial board of The Advocate to explain how there’s no way they can reinstate Wade if he doesn’t meet with them as requested to spill details.
Thursday morning: In a released statement, Wade asks for reinstatement citing he hasn’t been afforded due process.
“The simple truth is I have been placed on leave because I exercised my 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,” Wade said. “My legal counsel advised the University that it would be wholly inappropriate for me, or anyone, to submit to an interview under these circumstances.”
Later Thursday morning: LSU reacts to Wade’s statement, using Sports Illustrated and former Advocate writer Ross Dellinger as a public messenger: Skinner tells Dellinger that “We have no choice, in terms of institutional control, to not suspend someone. . .the NCAA wants universities to have control over their programs.”
Invoking the phrase “institutional control?
Insert a big gulp right here.
“Lack of institutional control” for NCAA investigators is liking firing a starting pistol to examine every sport that a university operates.
The NCAA begins looking for red flags waved by smoking guns who are linked the program, often as big-money contributors.
Investigative leads pointing to evidence are almost impossible for the NCAA to obtain unless it has been provided airtight information from criminal or media investigations.
More than not often, a sport that ends up on NCAA probation is the one that wasn’t originally scrutinized.
For instance, the NCAA’s five-year investigation of Ole Miss that resulted in its football program receiving a four-year probation in November 2017 started in October 2012 when the school fired new women’s basketball coach Adrian Wiggins for recruiting violations. It’s this instance that brought the NCAA to Oxford for an investigation that eventually spread to football and women’s track and field.
The NCAA found its smoking gun in Lindsey Miller, the stepdad of Rebels’ All-SEC lineman Laremy Tunsil. Miller spilled his guts to the NCAA after he and Tunsil got in a June 2015 fight over the fact Tunsil was illegally talking with sports agents. Then Tunsil told reporters on NFL Draft night in April 2016 he accepted money from Ole Miss coaches.
The fact Skinner didn’t mind tossing out the phrase “institutional control” as a reason why LSU requested Wade for a meeting with school officials and the NCAA screams the school is only worried about landing in NCAA jail.
The FBI can’t put on LSU on probation. The NCAA can.
Like any other school with one of its major sports programs in a national spotlight for a basketball coach that has been subpoenaed to testify for a federal trial, LSU doesn’t want the NCAA probing its other major sports, particularly football.
Now that Wade has refused to cooperate with LSU – and with good reason in his eyes because he can't divulge information prior to his scheduled court appearance – LSU officials have done everything possible to show the NCAA it wants to fully cooperate.
That may or may not keep the NCAA from snooping around Baton Rouge.
It will likely start, if it already hasn’t, with investigative basics of finding someone who has made donations to the Tiger Athletic Foundation, especially anybody connected to financial improprieties.
If investigators discover that person and is able to connect dots, the NCAA will become a hemorrhoid on LSU’s collective rear end that won’t disappear for several years.
And even if an investigation doesn’t result in probation, the lingering specter of an on-going investigation makes recruiting such a daily struggle that it’s like being on probation without the sanctions.
That’s why LSU wants to nip any alleged basketball violations from the get-go. It doesn’t want the possibility of this cancer spreading to other sports, particularly its cashcow football.