It’s halftime of LSU vs. Florida here at Bridgestone Arena, and the building is buzzing about Will Wade’s suspension. The story has dominated the tournament thus far, especially after Wade’s statement yesterday claiming he should be reinstated even though he refuses to meet with LSU officials to explain his “offer” for freshman Javonte Smart that was discovered on an FBI wiretap.
Jack and I spent some time this morning speaking to LSU fans, and the vast majority of them support Wade and want him back as head coach. A few “Free Will Wade” signs have even popped up around the arena.
“We don’t know the facts and we love our coach,” Dee Bee, an LSU season ticket holder said. “Look at what he’s done for LSU just in 18 months. The stadium is now full and we believe in righteous coaching but we’ve also heard that everybody does these things — like everybody — so we feel like that maybe something will come from it.”
The “everybody does it” defense is a common one amongst LSU fans, but Bee said if Wade is guilty of offering to pay a player, he should ultimately be fired.
“Yeah, he needs to go. We’ve got to stop all this. I just feel like we’ve been singled out. I don’t know why. It’s sad.”
Another Tigers fan I spoke to vehemently disagreed, saying LSU should keep Wade even if he did offer to pay Smart.
“No, because you cannot honestly sit there and tell me Duke, North Carolina, and Kentucky, they aren’t paying players,” Hunter Wright said. “Go look at Zion Williamson’s house. His family came from a lower income background and now lives in a $350,000 house two miles from campus. You connect the dots. Everybody does it. He got caught. We’ll take a probation for a year if we have to, but I don’t want to see him get fired as coach.”
If his #FireAlleva shirt wasn’t indication enough, Wright’s anger is directed towards LSU athletic director Joe Alleva.
“I’d like to see Joe Alleva fired. He choked on the football coach. He had Jimbo Fisher and could not get the job done. He had Tom Herman, got his ego hurt and canceled the deal on that and now he won’t stand behind his own coach at LSU, Will Wade. And if you look back, he ran Duke’s Lacrosse program into the ground after the rape scandal, which turned out they were innocent but he didn’t stand behind his players there either.”
Jack managed to find the rare LSU fan who agrees with Alleva’s decision to suspend Wade and even fire him if it comes to it.
“Unfortunately, yes,” the fan said on whether or not Wade should be fired. “I’m an honest and truthful guy and I think, honestly, yes.”
“I know what he did was wrong but he has to serve his just and do his time. I want to play fair but we have do what the NCAA tells us to do.”
For what it’s worth, interim coach Tony Benford seems to be doing a pretty good job in Wade’s absence. Currently, the Tigers lead Florida 35-25 at halftime.
“I think this Tony Benford is doing an outstanding job. If he has to take over, then he needs to do his job and get us past these swamp lizards.”
As Dr. Mike discovered, not everyone is taking things so seriously.
Sitting in front of the LSU Band. Javonte Smart scores on a drive and someone yells, “That’s what we pay him to do!” Lol at least they have a sense of humor about it @KySportsRadio @MrsTylerKSR @DrewFranklinKSR pic.twitter.com/SWbs9UrP9W
— Michael Huang (@DrMikeUK) March 15, 2019