NC State hit with D. Smith Jr.-related violations
NC State received a notice of allegations from the NCAA on Tuesday regarding the Wolfpack’s recruitment of former star player Dennis Smith Jr.
The NCAA has alleged two Level I violations (the most serious) against the school, including a failure-to-monitor charge against former coach Mark Gottfried, who has since been hired at Cal State Northridge.
Former Wolfpack assistant Orlando Early also is accused of helping facilitate a $40,000 payment from former Adidas executive T.J. Gassnola to Smith’s family in October 2015.
“It is alleged that from September 2014 through March 2017, Orlando Early, then men’s basketball assistant coach and lead recruiter, violated the NCAA principles of ethical conduct when he and members of the men’s basketball staff committed multiple recruiting violations and provided extra benefits during the recruitment and subsequent enrollment of [Smith],” the notice of allegations said. “Early and the men’s basketball staff members arranged for and/or provided Smith and individuals associated with him approximately $46,700 in impermissible inducements and benefits.”
The NCAA said Smith was ineligible while competing in 32 contests for the Wolfpack during the 2016-17 season, when he was named ACC Freshman of the Year.
The allegations regarding Smith’s recruitment were revealed in a federal indictment and criminal trial in New York last year.
“NC State is committed to the highest levels of compliance, honesty and integrity,” NC State chancellor Randy Woodson said in a statement. “As the university carefully reviews the NCAA’s allegations and thoroughly evaluates the evidence in order to determine our response, we are prepared to be accountable where we believe it is appropriate and to vigorously defend this great university and its Athletics program where we feel it is necessary.”
The school also is accused of providing Smith a parking pass to an NC State football game before he enrolled in 2016, which is considered a Level II violation.
Early also is accused of providing 44 complimentary tickets to NC State men’s basketball games to Shawn Framer, Smith’s trainer, as well as 106 complimentary tickets to Smith’s family and friends.
NC State officials, Gottfried and Early have 90 days to respond to the NCAA’s notice of allegations.
“Coach Gottfried has cooperated fully with the NCAA’s investigation, and he will continue to cooperate,” Gottfried’s lawyer, Scott Tompsett, said in a statement. “He is disappointed that allegations have been brought against his former program at NC State, and he takes these allegations very seriously.
“While we disagree with the enforcement staff’s position that Coach Gottfried did not adequately monitor certain aspects of his program, we are pleased that the NCAA agrees that he was not involved in any illicit payments.”
NC State is one of several schools under NCAA scrutiny as a result of the federal government’s investigation of pay-for-play schemes in college basketball. Sources have told ESPN that the NCAA is actively investigating Arizona, Creighton, Kansas, Louisville, LSU and USC.
ESPN reported in March that court filings in the federal criminal case linked Gottfried to direct payments to Smith’s family.
According to a disclosure from federal prosecutors, Early’s attorney said his client disclosed that Gottfried on two occasions gave him envelopes — containing what Early believed was cash — to deliver to Smith’s trainer to ensure he signed with the Wolfpack in 2015.
Tompsett disputed the veracity of the disclosure.
Sources told ESPN that federal prosecutors initially disclosed the statement from Early’s attorney before the October federal criminal trial in New York, in which Adidas executive James Gatto, Adidas consultant Merl Code and aspiring business manager Christian Dawkins were convicted of conspiring to funnel money from the shoe company to the families of high-profile recruits to steer them to Adidas-sponsored programs, including Kansas, Louisville and NC State.
The allegations concerning Gottfried weren’t introduced into evidence during the criminal trial.
Gassnola testified during the October trial that he made two payments to people close to Smith, who spent one-and-a-half seasons at NC State before becoming a lottery pick in the 2017 NBA draft. He currently is playing for the Knicks.
The first payment, of an unspecified amount, came during Smith’s junior year of high school after Andy Miller, who ran the ASM Sports agency, informed Gassnola that Smith wanted to leave the Adidas grassroots circuit.
The second payment came in the fall of 2015, after Early reached out to Gassnola to say there were issues surrounding Smith, who had committed earlier in the fall.
“He was having issues with keeping that situation together,” Gassnola told the jury.
Gassnola testified that he gave $40,000 in cash to Early in November 2015. Early told Gassnola that he was going to give the money to Farmer. Gassnola said Adidas reimbursed him.
After the $40,000 payment from Gassnola, according to the disclosure, Early removed himself from the situation.
Gottfried, a former ESPN analyst, was fired in February 2017 by NC State after six seasons. He had a 123-86 overall record and 48-58 ACC record at NC State. Cal State Northridge hired Gottfried as its coach on March 12, 2018.
In a statement Tuesday, Cal State Northridge said Gottfried told the school during its hiring process “that he had no involvement in, nor knowledge of, any NCAA rules violations as a head coach at previous institutions. This affirmation is included in his employment documents and is a condition of employment.”
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