ESPN college basketball announcing legend Dick Vitale and LSU basketball coach Will Wade are embroiled in a he said-he said feud.
Wade, whose team plays St. Bonaventure on Saturday (TNT, 1:45 p.m. ET) in the NCAA Tournament in Bloomington, Indiana, said Wednesday on the Jordy Culotta Show — daily live television podcast in Baton Rouge — that Vitale lied to him on Saturday night.
“How about that guy? How about this? He flat out lied to me,” Wade said via telephone from Indianapolis on the show.
Vitale called Wade Saturday before the Tigers were to play Alabama in the SEC tournament championship game on Sunday.
“He said he was going to talk about our team and stuff,” Wade said. “He said, ‘I’m not going to bring anything up.’ I said, ‘OK, I appreciate that. That’s nice.’ And I get like 100 texts after the game.”
The texts were about Vitale discussing the NCAA’s ongoing, two-year investigation of Wade’s basketball program for alleged recruiting rules violations.
“That’s not what he told me the night before, I can tell you that,” Wae said.
Vitale said he only brought up the NCAA investigation after an ESPN producer told him to do so, which is common practice in national network coverage of sports. And LSU’s investigation remains a developing and topical story. Wade was asked about it Wednesday separate of the Vitale angle by an Associated Press reporter on an NCAA Tournament teleconference.
LSU’s case is considered a major one as it was shifted last August it to a special investigatory arm of the NCAA — he Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP) — that specializes in “select, complex infractions cases” involving “the possibility of significant penalties,” states the IARP website.
“I did call Will, and I told him I wasn’t going to get into specifics of all that,” Vitale told the USA TODAY Network in a phone interview. “I promised I wasn’t going to get into all of that as far as what was said by Will. But the production people put up a graphic and told me to talk about it. I didn’t lie to Will Wade. I didn’t get specific. I am really upset about what he said. My word is my bond.”
Wade was asked about Vitale on the NCAA teleconference.
“He said he was going to talk strictly about basketball,” Wade said. “And het gets on there, and there is all sorts of other stuff from what I understand. I don’t ever listen to the games with the commentary. What I said is the truth.”
Had Wade watched and listened to an ESPN tape of the game, which Alabama won 80-79, he would have heard Vitale discussing the NCAA’s investigation of LSU, but not repeating the infamous “strong (expletive deleted) offer” Wade says on FBI wire tap or delving into any of the other sordid details.
Wade would have learned that ESPN play-by-play announcer Karl Ravech talked more about the investigation and got more specific.
“There’s no doubt about it Karl,” Vitale said during a break in the action Sunday on ESPN with LSU leading Alabama, 34-31, with 2:20 left in the first half. “The biggest problem they’re going to face is with the NCAA. I mean, let’s face reality. You’ve heard all the documented situations that have been out there concerning Will Wade’s comments and the investigation by the FBI. That is really lingering over them. And that is going to be the biggest concern — dealing with the NCAA.”
Vitale, who is in the Basketball Hall of Fame and College Basketball Hall of Fame, then praised Wade.
“The guy can coach. There is no doubt about it,” he said. “He can flat out coach. He won with VCU, and he’s won here. They just have to sit back now and wait on what happens with that committee — the Independent Accountability Resolution Process.”
Throughout the game, Vitale talked up LSU’s improving defense and rebounding of late and said stars Cameron Thomas, Trendon Watford and Javonte Smart were as good a trio on one team as there is in the country. He also critized the NCAA’s process, which Wade and Culotta never mentioned.
“I mean, by the time they decide, he may be 70 years old,” Vitale, who is 81 and started broadcasting games for ESPN since 1979. “I’ll be long gone.”
Ravech picked it up from there.
“Wade was accused of either arranging or offering impermissible payments,” he said. “And he’s very aware. He’s not hiding under a rock about what is looming with regards to the NCAA. It’s out there, and that awareness is something that may — may — cause some decisions to be made by kids about whether they attend LSU or other schools, who the NCAA has mentioned as well.”
Vitale brought up another school’s investigation and again criticized the NCAA process.
“Arizona as well,” he said. “The NCAA takes too, too long in making a decision. It’s a joke to be honest with you.”
Vitale said he left a message for Wade.
“I have always been good to LSU,” Vitale said. “That’s why this really bothers me.”
Follow Glenn Guilbeau on Twitter @LSUBeatTweet.