OPINION: NCAA probe of LSU basketball program referred to panel for 'complex infractions'
BATON ROUGE — Dick Vitale, the most unpopular person in the LSU Nation since Nick Saban, may be right in the end.
Vitale, a college basketball analyst icon for ESPN since the 1980s, has long not supported LSU basketball coach Will Wade's innocence, like many, with regard to major accusations of his illegal recruitment of players.
Vitale tweeted on June 3 that LSU had received the NCAA's official and dreaded notice of allegations concerning the long-investigated Wade.
"Sources tell me that LSU has been notified by the NCAA of the various allegations that they have been charged with involving the men’s basketball program," Vitale said at the time.
He was not right then. And he is not right now, either ... yet. He just may have been too early.
The NCAA's investigation of Wade's recruiting going back to 2018 has been sent by two NCAA committees to an NCAA arm called the Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP), according to the Baton Rouge Advocate, which says Wade paid cash to, or arranged for, or offered impermissible payments to 11 potential recruits.
"LSU cannot comment on pending NCAA cases," LSU associate athletic director Robert Munson told the USA TODAY Network on Wednesday.
The IARP reviews "select complex infractions cases in Division I," according to its website.
"Complex cases," as defined by the IARP, include "alleged violations of core NCAA values, such as the possibility of significant penalties or conduct that is contrary to the cooperative principles of the existing infractions process."
In other words, this is sort of the SWAT team of the NCAA enforcement staff.
The IARP's infractions referral committee will now approve or reject this referral and could decide that LSU does receive the notice of allegations that would kick off more investigation and a process that likely leads to sanctions — big or small.
If those are the most serious allegations, which would be Level 1 or 2, Wade could be fired without cause by LSU and without him receiving any of the $7.5 million remaining on the last three of his contract at $2.5 million a year through 2023.
Wade's contract states that if he is merely investigated for Level 1 or 2 violations and not found guilty, he could be fired without cause. He agreed to that new language in his contract so he could be reinstated by LSU on April 14 of last year following his suspension on March 8.
Wade was suspended for not cooperating with LSU or the NCAA concerning an investigation of his program after a Yahoo story revealed that Wade was on FBI wiretap allegedly offering money to then-LSU recruiting target Javonte Smart, who will be a on LSU's team in the 2020-21 season.
It is Wade's lack of cooperation with and lack of respect for the NCAA and LSU and his failure to meet deadlines given to him by the NCAA throughout its investigation process for nearly two years that has Wade's case now in the IARP cross hairs.
As of now, Wade and the LSU basketball program are still in the same situation they have been in since Wade was reinstated over a year ago. And conceivably, very little could happen to Wade, particularly since the NCAA overall has appeared to be getting weaker and weaker overall for years.
But this move by the NCAA shows it is still breathing and it still has LSU on its radar, though its process has been slow.
It is also more proof that the NCAA is not done yet with LSU no matter how many have hallucinated that it is.