RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The defending Atlantic 10 Conference champions Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Rams Men’s Basketball team will open its 2023-2024 season tonight hosting a team led by their former head coach, who will be notably absent from the game.
Will Wade, who coached the Rams from 2015 to 2017, leading them to a conference title game appearance and two NCAA Tournament appearances, now coaches the McNeese State University Cowboys. However, when the two teams face off in their opening night matchup on Monday, Nov. 6, Wade will not be in attendance.
That’s because Wade will be spending the first ten games of the season serving a suspension stemming from allegations of illegal recruiting practices during his time coaching at Louisiana State University, where he went after departing from Richmond in 2017.
Wade was fired by LSU right before the beginning of last year’s NCAA Tournament after it was determined that he offered “impermissible payments” which included cash to at least 11 prospects, obstructed an investigation by the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) and attempted to conceal evidence of recruiting violations.
Wade had already been suspended for offering illegal benefits to recruits in 2019, and when he was reinstated, a clause was added to his contact which stated that LSU could fire him with no repercussions if he was charged with a level 1 or 2 violation by the NCAA again.
Wade was hired by McNeese in March under the condition that he would miss the first five games of the season regardless of the NCAA’s suspension, which was announced in June.
McNeese will spend Wade’s suspension being led by assistant Brandon Chambers, who earned his undergraduate degree from VCU in 2011. Chambers was a student assistant for the Rams when they went to the Final Four during his senior year.
The Rams are also opening the season with a new head coach. Ryan Odom, who led the University of Maryland, Baltimore County to their legendary upset win against the 1-seed Virginia Cavaliers in the first round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament, replaced previous head coach Mike Rhoades in the offseason.
Rhoades departed from VCU for Penn State University after he led the Rams to an Atlantic 10 Conference Championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance. Rhoades brought several Rams with him to his native Pennsylvania, including Adrian Baldwin, Jr., last year’s A10 Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.
VCU vs. McNeese tips off at 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 6 at the Siegel Center, the game can be streamed on ESPN+.