Woodson: Independent Panel State's 'Only Remaining Option'

Brett Friedlander

NC State has agreed to have its case involving the recruitment of former basketball star Dennis Smith Jr. decided by the new Independent Accountability Resolution Process, rather than the NCAA's Committee on Infractions.

But according to the school's formal response to the NCAA's referral of the case to the independent panel of investigators, it is a decision that has been made "reluctantly."

"We've stated throughout this process that NC State will accept accountability for any shortcomings and defend ourselves aggressively where we feel it is appropriate and necessary to do so," chancellor Randy Woodson said in a statement issued by the university. 

"As our response to the (NCAA's) referral petition demonstrates, we do not think NC State can receive an objective or fair hearing before the Committee on Infractions in this matter. We believe that the only remaining option is that our case e moved by the Independent Accountability Resolution Process."

The case against State was scheduled to be heard by the Committee on Infractions at some point this year, but was put into limbo when the NCAA suspended all its activity last month because of the coronavirus crisis.

Once normal operations resume. it would be handled by a 15-member review board comprised of members not affiliated with any NCAA school or the organization’s enforcement staff. 

According to the NCAA’s official website, decisions issued through the IARP are final and are not subject to appeal or further review.

State's response expressed skepticism in the fairness of the new process, which was established in 2018 on the recommendation of a committee chaired by former U.S. Secretary of State Condaleeza Rice in order to handle complex cases.

But because of what school administrators consider the prejudicial handling of their case by the NCAA's Committee on Infractions, specifically chair Carol Cartwright, their response concluded that “the university is left with little choice but to accede to referral to the IARP.”

State received an NCAA Notice of Allegations last July accusing then-coach Mark Gottfried and his program of two major violations in connection with the recruitment of Smith.

The star point guard from Fayetteville, who played only one season for the Wolfpack, is alleged to have received $40,000 from former Adidas consultant Thomas “T.J.” Gassnola. 

Gassnola testified during a federal corruption and fraud trial in New York involving operatives of the shoe company last year that he funneled the money to Smith’s “handlers” in exchange for steering the future first round NBA draft pick to State.

DSJ NC State
Dennis Smith Jr. played one season with the Wolfpack, winning ACC Rookie of the Year honors in 2017

Former Wolfpack assistant Orlando Early was accused by the NCAA of being the middleman in the payment to Smith. Gottfried, who is now the coach at Cal State Northridge, was charged with a “failure to monitor” Early’s actions in Smith’s recruitment.

Both coaches were fired by State before the allegations came to light and the university has taken steps to distance itself from them.

In a 60-page response submitted in February, State informed the NCAA that it “strenuously disputes and is contesting” the most serious charge against it. While that position has not changed, the school's latest correspondence emphasizes that its administration "remains committed to continuing to work collaboratively with the NCAA to resolve the remaining issues in this matter."

"NC State has a long history of working cooperatively with the NCAA," Woodson said in his statement, "and we remain committed to working collaboratively through the IARP to address concerns and to resolve this matter as fairly and efficiently as possible."

Smith averaged 18.1 points per game in his one college season and was named the ACC’s Rookie of the Year.

That personal success didn't carry over to his team. State was only 15-17 (4-14 in conference play) in 2016-17 before the Fayetteville native declared for the NBA draft was taken with the ninth overall pick by the Dallas Mavericks. He now plays for the New York Knicks.

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