The Louisiana State University Division I men’s college basketball team ended their season with a loss to Iowa State in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Friday, March 18. But the LSU Tigers can’t be blamed if they were off their game, considering they just had a major coaching shakeup.
Head coach Will Wade was terminated for cause on Saturday, March 12, after LSU received word of “multiple charges alleging Coach Wade’s personal involvement in — or awareness of — Level I misconduct,” as university president William F. Tate and athletic director Scott Woodward wrote in an open letter to the LSU community that afternoon.
That language is vague, but ESPN’s open records request for the NCAA’s notice of allegations yielded more answers …
Why did LSU fire their basketball coach? Here's what we know.
In documents that ESPN obtained in August 2020, the NCAA noted allegations that Wade had “arranged for, offered and/or provided impermissible payments, including cash payments, to at least 11 men’s basketball prospective student-athletes, their family members, individuals associated with the prospects and/or nonscholastic coaches in exchange for the prospects’ enrollment at LSU.”
Now Wade has been accused of five Level I violations and one Level II violation, according to the new NCAA notice obtained by ESPN. And one of the Level I violations alleges that Wade made “impermissible cash payments to the former fiancée of a student-athlete in order to buy her silence regarding prior and current impermissible inducements to student-athletes or prospective student-athletes.”
In another accusation, the NCAA alleges that Wade made payments to an individual with sway on where a prospect would play college basketball — and that he “directed that payments be made to [the individual] from a bank account in the name of Wade’s spouse that Wade and his spouse treated as a joint account.”
In their letter, Tate and Woodward said that Wade’s firing is “not an acknowledgement of agreement with any of the allegations,” vowing that the school will conduct “an exhaustive and objective examination of the relevant facts and applicable NCAA regulations.”
The university also terminated the contract for associate men’s basketball Bill Armstrong, who is accused of one Level I violation and one Level II violation.
“We can no longer subject our University, Department of Athletics, and — most importantly — our student-athletes, to this taxing and already lengthy process without taking action,” Tate and Woodward wrote. “Our responsibility to protect and promote the integrity and well-being of our entire institution and our student-athletes will always be paramount.”
Kevin Nickelberry became LSU’s interim coach after Wade’s ouster.
Kevin Nickelberry, who was Howard University’s head men’s basketball coach for nearly a decade before becoming assistant coach at LSU, is filling in as interim coach for the rest of the Tigers’ season.
Nickelberry learned about his new position in a meeting with Tate and Woodward on Saturday. Three minutes later, he had to address the team. “What I told the players in that first meeting was, all we can control is the next week — or, I hope, two or three weeks,” he told The Washington Post last week. “None of us knows what’s coming after that. Some guys will graduate. Some will have a shot at the NBA. Some will be auditioning — for the new coach here or for a coach at another school.”
He went on: “What I wanted them to understand was that we are a very good basketball team and to play in the NCAA tournament is an opportunity that may or may not come again. Nothing’s guaranteed. I told them I understood this was a unique and extraordinary circumstance. But we had five days to get our mojo back.”