As the latest exhibit of how corrupting big-time college athletics has become, we offer the reaction of Louisiana State University fans at their first opportunity to publicly express their sentiments about a report that their coach may have been caught in a scheme to pay off players.
Rather than boo the coach, Will Wade, in absentia, they directed their ire at the school’s administration for suspending Wade indefinitely while the investigation into the alleged cheating proceeds.
“Joe must go!” came the chants from the student section and other parts of the arena, The Associated Press reported, when the school’s athletic director, Joe Alleva, walked to his seat at the team’s final regular-season game Saturday. They also called Alleva a “coward,” the AP reported, supposedly for taking action before the school had conclusive evidence of wrongdoing. Signs around the stands shouted “Free Will Wade” and “Free Javonte Smart,” the latter referring to the LSU freshman whose services Wade reportedly was bartering for in 2017 when the coach was recorded on an FBI wiretap.
The attitude among many fans at LSU and a lot of other schools is to condone cheating as long as it produces wins and as long as you don’t get caught and land their schools on probation.
But, as Dan Wolken, a USA Today columnist, noted over the weekend, if Wade is guilty of cheating, he didn’t do so in order to help restore LSU to its former basketball glory. Wade did it to make millions for himself.
Wade’s meteoric rise over the past decade from being a modestly paid assistant at Harvard to a multimillionaire coach at age 36 at LSU was fueled every step of the way by recruiting players above his program’s level, Wolken writes. When a coach rises that quickly and lands talent that good, it’s usually not because he’s just a hard worker.
If Wade was buying players, some will dismiss it as what almost every successful coach does these days. With one-and-done athletes, with the riches that colleges reap for fielding winning programs, with the term “student-athlete” becoming more of a farce all the time, they may be right. But at least fans could direct their anger at those who are making a fortune off a rotten system.