Mark SchlabachESPN Senior WriterClose
- Senior college football writer
- Author of seven books on college football
- Graduate of the University of Georgia
FBI wiretaps intercepted telephone calls between LSU coach Will Wade and aspiring business manager Christian Dawkins, in which Wade expressed frustration about his inability to close what he described as a “strong-ass offer” for a recruit, sources told ESPN on Thursday.
Yahoo Sports first reported details about the contents of one of the telephone calls on Thursday.
ESPN has independently verified the calls between Dawkins and Wade, which occurred in 2017, when the FBI was monitoring one of Dawkins’ cellphones as part of the federal government’s clandestine investigation into college basketball corruption.
According to people familiar with the calls, Wade was frustrated with a handler of current LSU guard Javonte Smart, who was then a top-50 recruit from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
“I was thinking last night on this Smart thing,” Wade told Dawkins during one of the calls. “I’ll be honest with you, I’m [expletive] tired of dealing with the thing. Like I’m just [expletive] sick of dealing with the s—. Like, this should not be that [expletive] complicated.
“Dude,” Wade continued during the call, “I went to [the handler] with a [expletive] strong-ass offer about a month ago. [Expletive] strong.
“The problem was, I know why he didn’t take it now. It was [expletive] tilted toward the family a little bit. It was tilted toward taking care of the mom, taking care of the kid. Like it was tilted towards that. Now I know for a fact he didn’t explain everything to the mom. I know now, he didn’t get enough of the piece of the pie in the deal.”
“It was a [expletive] hell of a [expletive] offer,” Wade continued. “Hell of an offer. … Especially for a kid who is going to be a two- or three-year kid.”
In a different telephone call with Dawkins, Wade joked that the player would be compensated more than the “rookie minimum.”
Wade told Dawkins that he had made deals for “as good of players as him” that were “a lot simpler than this.”
Wade, 36, has guided No. 10 LSU to a 25-5 record, 15-2 SEC this season. The Tigers are tied with No. 5 Tennessee for first place in the SEC with one regular-season game remaining.
Asked about the report Thursday at an LSU luncheon, Wade said he had yet to read it.
“I have to read it and look at it and from there we’ll move forward as we need to,” the coach said.
Smart, a freshman, is averaging 11.5 points and 2.5 assists. He was ranked the No. 31 player in the country in the 2018 ESPN 100.
Dawkins, a former runner for NBA agent Andy Miller, was sentenced to six months in federal prison on Tuesday after he was convicted on felony charges for his role in a pay-for-play scheme to funnel money from Adidas to the families of high-profile recruits to ensure they signed with Adidas-sponsored schools, including Kansas, Louisville and NC State.
Former Adidas executive James Gatto was sentenced to nine months in prison, and former Adidas consultant Merl Code was sentenced to six months. Attorneys for the men said they intended to appeal the convictions.
Code and Dawkins are also defendants in an April 22 federal criminal case, in which prosecutors have accused them of bribing three former assistant coaches — Arizona’s Emanuel “Book” Richardson, USC’s Tony Bland and Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans — to steer their players to Dawkins’ fledgling sports management agency and certain financial planners once they turned pro.
Dawkins’ attorney, Steven Haney of Detroit, notified Wade’s and Arizona coach Sean Miller’s attorneys that he planned to subpoena the coaches to testify at the April trial.
Outside the Lines previously reported that Wade and Dawkins had at least three phone calls between June 19, 2017, and June 30, 2017.
LSU officials previously told ESPN that phone records for Wade’s university-issued cellphone didn’t include any calls to cell numbers assigned to Dawkins.
Last week, LSU officials also told ESPN that the university hadn’t received any correspondence from the U.S. Justice Department or the NCAA regarding its men’s basketball program.
During the October federal criminal trial, defense attorneys unsuccessfully tried to introduce into evidence a call between Dawkins and Wade, in which they discussed 2019 recruit Balsa Koprivica, who is committed to Florida State.
“So you said to me … there was a 2019 kid I wanted to recruit, they can get him to LSU, you would have funded,” Dawkins told Wade. “Would you want Balsa?”
“Oh, the big kid?” Wade said.
Dawkins confirmed he was talking about Koprivica.
“OK, but there is other [expletive] involved in it,” Wade said. “I have got to shut my door …”
Then Wade said, “I can get you what you need, but it’s got to work.”