Ryan Grube, Staff Writer
LSU head coach Will Wade’s return to the Siegel Center for tonight’s “gold out” has the arena rocking with energy, but the fans creating the noise have a difference of opinion about Wade’s return to their beloved arena after his 2017 departure from VCU.
One of the more notable groups of fans, VCU’s Rowdy Rams — the school’s official Student Support Organization of their athletics — made their way into the Siegel Center sporting FBI hats and waving snarky signs directed at Wade.
The LSU coach was suspended from coaching in March after the FBI intercepted a phone conversation between Wade and former Adidas consultant Christian Dawkins. According to Yahoo Sports, Wade appeared to reference a money offer he made to one of his recruits two years ago.
Owen Fitzgerald, a Rowdy Rams member, shared the group’s take on Wade’s abrupt departure.
“I always respected Will Wade as a coach, and I think he is a great coach,” Fitzgerald said. “That being said, I think the way he left the team three years ago was very disrespectful. I think he left a lot of people in the dark and ended up hurting a lot of feelings.”
Cal McCarthy, one of the organization’s board members, said he doesn’t care how Wade feels toward the fans for Wednesday night’s contest.
“It’s definitely going to be interesting,” McCarthy said. “The way he left wasn’t cool, so I don’t really about his feelings when he comes back.”
Some of the older VCU fans were more understanding of Wade’s departure. Many want a fair game and clean behavior from the potentially raucous crowd.
Longtime fan Jane Brown walked into the arena wearing FBI gear, but she said her outfit was, “all in fun.” Browd added she thinks tonight’s game will be a good one, and that Ram fans love their team and coach.
Another veteran fan, Daniel Locklair, agreed with Brown, saying he thinks fans should respect Wade for the success the former coach gave the Rams during his tenure with the black and gold.
“He did give us two good years when he was here,” Locklair said. “He lost a whole recruiting class, but he was able to get some transfer students and build a team.”
Tony Ramirez, a three-year VCU fan, said Wade’s return gives head coach Mike Rhoades and company a chance to win a high-caliber matchup.
“I think it’s exciting that he’s coming home, but it gives us an opportunity,” Ramirez said. “It’s always fun to be able to compete and show how well we’ve done.”
Much like other seasoned fans, Keith Strohbecker wants a clean and competitive game for both teams. But Strohbecker mentioned that Wade “isn’t one of the more well-liked coaches we’ve had here, so that might have an effect [on the atmosphere.]”
Many fans, such as Dean Siwiec, think Wade deserves a revenge loss for the way he left the Rams.
“I think it’s going to be an exciting night with Will Wade coming back,” Siwiec said. “I think he’s going to realize he made a mistake, and we’re going to beat him tonight, badly.”
Fitzgerald said that VCU’s passionate student section isn’t forgiving of Wade’s actions.
“I think the game is going to be great because LSU is a great team, but we’re going to let him hear it.”
VCU will be back at the Siegel Center on Sunday for its matchup against Jacksonville State at noon.
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