LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) - First-year McNeese State coach Will Wade, who resumed coaching this season for the first time since being fired by LSU in 2022 because of NCAA recruiting violations, has signed a five-year contract extension worth at least $700,000 per year.
The deal, announced by athletic director Heath Schroyer on Tuesday, comes as McNeese is in the midst of a dramatic turnaround. The Cowboys are 20-3 - with notable victories over VCU and Michigan - after going 11-23 a season ago.
Schroyer said he promised Wade that "when the program was turned around and flipped, I would rip up the current contract and give him a new one."
"I did just that and I couldn't be happier to do it," Schroyer added. "We have become nationally relevant in men's basketball and the McNeese brand has become stronger and more recognizable regionally and nationally. There is simply no price you can put on that type of brand recognition."
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Pending approval by the University of Louisiana Board of Supervisors, the new contract will include a buyout of $1.25 million if Wade moves to another job before the end of August. The buyout drops $1 million the following year and to $500,000 the year after that.
Wade missed the first 10 games of the 2023-24 season due to an NCAA suspension. During that time, two assistants - Brandon Chambers and Vernon Hamilton - coached McNeese to an 8-2 record that included the win at VCU.
With Wade on the sideline since Dec. 13, the Cowboys have gone 12-1, with the only loss coming against Southeastern Louisiana last Saturday.
"I have a phenomenal staff. It doesn't work without them," Wade said. "We have tremendous players and they make it happen. And with that, we've got phenomenal alignment and commitment from our administration."
McNeese leads the Southland Conference in average home attendance with 3,158 per game and has sold out its 4,200-capacity home arena three times.
"We have already generated more than five times the revenue from last year," Schroyer said. "We are simply reinvesting into this program, which will in turn help our entire department."
McNeese plays next on Saturday at home against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in a matchup of the two teams atop the Southland Conference standings.
Wade coached LSU to three NCAA Tournaments, but his recruiting tactics spawned an NCAA investigation into the program's alleged offering of improper benefits to players - before rule changes that now allow college athletes to make money from their name, image and likeness (NIL).
The NCAA concluded that Wade committed three Level I violations - considered a severe breach of conduct - that include the rule governing overall head coach responsibility for conduct within a program. Those findings led to Wade's 10-game suspension and ongoing restrictions on recruiting visits through June 2025.
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