How will Will Wade's suspension impact LSU's recruiting?
LSU announced that they have suspended head coach Will Wade indefinitely on Friday.
The suspension comes a day after an explosive Yahoo! Sports report that featured excerpts of a June 2017 conversation caught on an FBI wiretap where Wade appears to be discussing a pay-for-play offer to a prospect and his family.
Wade doesn't discuss exact amounts and it's not totally conclusive evidence, but the optics are pretty bad. LSU has been getting hammered by national media and they pretty clearly are taking it seriously given their suspension of Wade.
So, how does his suspension impact recruiting?
The all too obvious answer is that a lot depends on exactly what LSU decides to do with Wade next. If the suspension is lifted then at a minimum hard questions will be asked of Wade and other programs will surely hammer away at the Tigers and potential NCAA trouble. If he's fired or the suspension lingers for long, then it will surely wreak plenty of havoc on their recruiting.
Currently, the Tigers recruiting class only ranks No. 75 nationally for 2019. It consists of Rivals150 guard James Bishop and three-star junior college wing Charles Manning Jr. However, coming off 2018's monster seven-man class that ranked in the top five nationally, the Tigers didn't have a ton of need. Pretty clearly, those two will now go into wait-and-see mode. If Wade is not fired, then they will stay. If the suspension lingers or Wade is let go then they'll not have much choice other than to let them out of their letters of intent if the players want to explore new options. That's all pretty basic.
Where the suspension could really hurt them, though, is in the recruitment of five-star Trendon Watford this spring and then into the class of 2020. Watford has a final four of LSU, Indiana, Alabama and Memphis. Duke has also been getting involved as of late. Many, including myself, have felt that the Tigers lead for the skilled combo forward from Alabama. The timing of this suspension is going to be a difficult hurdle to overcome unless there is a clear and convincing resolution in the pretty immediate future. Stranger things have happened, but you have to figure that they'll fade for Watford.
Next, with spring recruiting for 2020 about to start, will Wade be able to get out and see or meet with any families? Will he even have a job? It's an important class for the Tigers, who have targeted many big-time players including the likes of five-star wing Greg Brown and five-star big man N'Faly Dante. The best case scenario for LSU right now is that it will have to play catch up. Worst case, a new coach comes in and has to start from scratch.
Last season, Arizona went through a very similar situation with Sean Miller and assistant Book Richardson. Miller was suspended over talk that he was on wiretap and Richardson lost his job over an arrest in the FBI trial. They lost commitments from Jahvon Quinerly, Shareef O'Neal and Brandon Williams. Williams eventually committed again and they were able to put together a top 35 class for 2018. This year they have the No. 2 ranked class in the country, so it's clearly possible to bounce back strong. But, a big part of Arizona being able to bounce back has been the strong support they've shown Sean Miller.
There's no way that Wade's suspension doesn't make recruiting much more difficult. Exactly how much short-term and long-term harm it does remains to be seen. However, LSU likely needs to make a decision as soon as it can. If it fires Wade, a new coach will need as much time as possible to try and save 2019 recruiting and to get caught up in 2020. If it lifts the suspension, it needs to do it as soon as possible and the administration needs to be strongly in Wade's corner because each day that passes with him sidelined is one that makes things tougher for them on the recruiting trail.