BATON ROUGE - LSU's athletic department released a statement on Monday afternoon concerning the NCAA's investigation - or preliminary investigation - of its men's basketball program in reaction to a Yahoo Sports story Sunday night that said LSU coach Will Wade's fast and successful recruiting is being investigated.
"LSU has confirmed with NCAA officials that there is no active investigation into the men's basketball program," said the emailed statement from LSU associate athletic director for communications Michael Bonnette under the title, "Statement from LSU Athletics."
There was no accompanying statement from the NCAA, however, confirming LSU's statement in the release. When Meghan Durham, NCAA assistant director of public and media relations for general media inquiries, was contacted by the USA Today Network on Monday afternoon, associate director of public and media relations Emily James responded minutes later.
"We are going to decline to comment at his time," James said.
Yahoo Sports said the NCAA had started looking into Wade's recruiting tactics while he was the Virginia Commonwealth coach. He left VCU for LSU in March of 2017 and the NCAA's investigation of Wade continued at LSU.
VCU athletic director Ed McLaughlin responded to the Yahoo Sports report on Monday without referencing the NCAA.
"The Department of Athletics has conducted a thorough review of all of our compliance records and all information we have pertaining to our men’s basketball program. We have found no evidence of any wrongdoing," McLaughlin said. "In addition, VCU has not been contacted by the NCAA.”
When Wade was being courted to become LSU's new basketball coach a year ago from VCU, a national basketball observer said if Wade goes to LSU, so will the NCAA.
That happened in recent months, but the NCAA's look into Wade has apparently lost momentum.
"The NCAA’s scrutiny of Wade began not long after his hire at LSU in March, but the inquiry has stalled because of a lack of on-the-record specifics about Wade’s recruiting," the Yahoo Sports story by Pete Thamel says. "The NCAA’s information gathering has covered part of his time as head coach at VCU. The NCAA’s interest appears to be in its exploratory and information-gathering stages."
Alleva said in the Yahoo story that his staff told him that LSU has had no contact with the NCAA, but qualified that by adding "regarding any irregularities."
Yahoo Sports had just broken a major update to the ongoing investigation of college basketball corruption on Friday that exposed former LSU basketball players Tim Quarterman and Jarell Martin - among more than 20 others from some 20 schools - as receiving money from the ASM sports agency in 2015.
Martin, who is represented by the ASM agency, and Quarterman both were recruited by and played for former LSU basketball coach Johnny Jones, who was fired after his fifth season in 2017. ASM balance sheets received by Yahoo Sports say Quarterman was given $16,000 while at LSU, which would be an NCAA violation, while Martin received $52,000, but it is unclear if he was still at LSU at the time in 2015. Martin, a Baton Rouge native, left LSU in the spring of 2015 to enter the NBA Draft and was a first round pick by Memphis. Quarterman left LSU after the 2016 season to enter the draft, but was not selected.
"Members of the NCAA enforcement staff have spent parts of the past six months looking into the recruiting tactics of LSU coach Will Wade, according to three sources with direct knowledge of the situation," the Yahoo Sports story began Sunday. "NCAA enforcement officials have done work both on the phone and in person to look into Wade, including traveling around the country, to learn more about his recruiting."
Alleva disputed that in the Yahoo story Sunday. He said that his staff told him that LSU has had no contact with the NCAA, but qualified that by adding "regarding any irregularities."
"While LSU has not been contacted by federal, league or NCAA officials, we can confirm a proactive and voluntary examination of current coaches and players was conducted by compliance officials and outside legal counsel in the fall of 2017," Alleva said, but did not address what apparently happened in 2015 with ASM, Quarterman, Martin and Jones. Alleva hired Jones from North Texas in 2012.
Jones, a native of DeRidder and LSU player on the 1981 Final Four team, has denied any knowledge of payments to Quarterman and Martin in a text to the Baton Rouge Advocate.
“I have no knowledge or information in regards to this matter that we’ve all read about in the press, and because of that, I will have no further comment,” Jones said.
"LSU will continue to monitor basketball and other athletic programs for NCAA and SEC rules compliance," Alleva said on Friday.
The NCAA historically has done preliminary investigations into basketball programs or coaches that have experienced a sudden influx of elite prospects. Wade fits that description very well as his recruiting at LSU has extended far and wide with much success in a very short time.
And Wade has not had the benefit of a staff member's historical connection to an elite prospect, which is partly how Jones landed the nation's top prospect in 2015 in forward Ben Simmons - the first pick of 2016 NBA Draft by Philadelphia. Simmons' father Dave Simmons happened to be old teammates and friends from their days in the Australian professional basketball league with David Patrick, who was the LSU assistant under Jones who recruited Simmons.
Wade has recruited successfully at LSU already partly because of hustle.
"Wade’s early recruiting activity at LSU prompted the NCAA enforcement interest," the Yahoo Sports story says.
In less than a year on the job, Wade's first class at LSU for the 2017-18 season came in at No. 17 in the 247 Sports recruiting website as he signed five nationally ranked players, including No. 10 ranked point guard Tremont Waters of West Haven, Connecticut, who has become a star this season. But Waters was a unique get for Wade as he was going to Georgetown before Georgetown coach John Thompson III just days after Wade was hired at LSU. And some elite colleges who had previously recruited Waters were fresh out of scholarships.