For 50 years, NCAA Narcs were the equivalent of law enforcement locking up upstanding citizens for possession. Rather than actively fighting for the rights that they were forced to finally accept last year, their Infractions Committee doggedly pursued victimless crimes like Rick Majeris paying for pizza or Will Wade’s NCAA violations.
On the court, LSU is 21-10 and a shoo-in for a berth in the NCAA Tourney. Off the court, the NCAA is still digging up “impermissible benefits’’ violations from 2017 because they have nothing else to do with their free time. According to Sports Illustrated, the Notice of Allegations from the Complex Case Unit of the NCAA’s Independent Accountability Review Process (IARP), which handles complicated NCAA investigations, notified LSU of potential abuses within the men’s basketball and football programs.
The men’s basketball violations stem from a highly publicized wiretap. The highlight was Wade discussing the “strong-ass offer” he’d made to guard Javonte Smart with middleman Christian Dawkins.
Wade was suspended for the final five games of its 2017 season but rescinded that suspension following the NCAA Tournament. During his 2017 suspension, Wade pulled one of the most baller moves ever when he simply declined to speak with LSU officials. He ultimately remained employed by LSU because he was 25-5 and cleaning up on the recruiting trail.
Wade won’t have the same options to fight for his job with the same tenacity he demonstrated five years ago. A contract amendment that he agreed to in April of 2019, allows LSU to terminate with cause if he’s fined for NCAA violations. Essentially, he surrendered all grounds to sue in the event of his firing.
However, that was before the NCAA abolished its archaic amateur model. New NIL rules have given student-athletes an avenue to earn compensation from their name and likeness via endorsements, advertisements, or paid personal appearances.
The NCAA used to run itself ragged, handing out punishments for violators of their amateur status bylaws. Now that much of what the NCAA used to enforce has been legalized, they don’t know what to do with themselves.
News of the NCAA investigating a five-year-old case has ratcheted up the calls for Wade’s job because it’s muscle memory. But why should LSU fire him now?
Wade was a rule breaker under the old paradigm. He also may be the last example made by the old NCAA. Repeat offender coaches who can get a program sentenced into oblivion have gone legit. Coaches no longer need to work with bagmen and shady agents for student-athletes.
Any coach getting caught arranging benefits for players in the NIL era is just dumb. The benefits that Wade arranged for his recruits pale in comparison to the NIL deals that players have been signing for the past year. Athletic departments used to have a long leash for improper and reprobate behavior by coaches and student-athletes, but getting caught paying broke players what they were worth used to be the ultimate red line.
Impermissible benefits were never a violation worthy of firing a coach. They were merely working around the NCAA’s draconian policies.
Keep things in perspective. Wade isn’t accused of an actual crime or money laundering or physical or emotional abuse. If LSU does succumb to old habits and fire Wade, he should get scooped up quickly after going 86-35 in his last four seasons by Maryland or any number of schools with vacancies. Reportedly, Wade may have provided illicit benefits to as many as 11 prospects. Hopefully, it was more.
Rooting for Wade to be punished by LSU is like rooting for aggressive Russian cannabis laws. The other peccadilloes mentioned in the IARP’s Notice of Allegations is Odell Beckham’s silly payments to LSU players after the NCAA Championship Game. We’re a few years away from the NCAA calling in violations of noise ordinances.