By Ed Daniels, Clarion Herald Sports
Maybe it is only a coincidence.
Within days, the following happened in SEC basketball:
•LSU head coach Will Wade was reinstated.
• Kentucky offered a lifetime contract to John Calipari.
•And, Auburn and Bruce Pearl agreed to a five-year contract extension. As part of the deal, Pearl gets a $1.2 million per season bump in pay, up to $3.8 million this season.
In college basketball, fans and universities appear to have a collective case of roundball amnesia.
One of Pearl’s former assistants, Auburn hoops legend Chuck Person, pled guilty to a felony as part of the FBI’s ongoing investigation of alleged corruption in college basketball.
It is the same investigation that Wade, according to Yahoo! Sports, was caught on an FBI wiretap talking about a “strong” offer to a recruit, later identified as LSU true freshman guard Javonte Smart.
Yahoo! Sports says that conversation was with Shannon Foreman of Baton Rouge, a person Smart said he has known most of his life.
Wade’s initial refusal to explain himself to LSU officials netted him a suspension, one that cost him the chance to coach his team in the NCAA Tournament.
But, after Wade met with LSU and NCAA officials last week, the university said Wade “answered all questions and denied all wrongdoing.” The school said “absent actual evidence of misconduct,” Wade had “satisfied his contractual obligation” to LSU.
And so, SEC basketball life goes on. Calipari won a national title at Kentucky in 2012, and two years later, the Wildcats were the national runner-up.
Calipari was hotly pursued by Kentucky even though his Final 4 appearance at UMass in 1996 was vacated after star Marcus Camby allegedly accepted improper benefits from at least two agents.
Even though UMass’ 1996 Final 4 appearance doesn’t actually exist in the record books, 20 years later, the school retired a jersey in Calipari’s honor to commemorate it.
Twelve years later, at the University of Memphis, all 38 of Calipari’s wins that season were vacated after star guard Derrick Rose’s SAT score was invalidated.
Pearl was fired by Tennessee in 2011, admitting in a press conference that he gave investigators false information when asked about a cookout at his home attended by high school juniors.
There’s no doubt that Calipari and Pearl can produce victories. Pearl was the second-fastest Tennessee coach to reach 100 victories. All of the other “baggage” is old news.
Maybe it will be, too, for Will Wade.
There’s no question he can recruit, and we may soon find out just how good a floor coach is he. LSU’s current signing class is ranked nowhere near the 2018 class, rated fourth nationally.
That class included Naz Reid, Smart, Emmitt Williams, Darius Days and Marlon Taylor. That class helped take LSU from the NIT to the Sweet 16.
Will Wade has a lot of support in Louisiana. The FBI wiretap proves nothing, they say. LSU apparently agrees.
Ed Daniels is sports director of ABC26 WGNO. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.