What do Oklahoma State Penalties Mean for Wolfpack?

Brett Friedlander

The NCAA's Committee on Infractions dropped the hammer on Oklahoma State on Friday for violations related to the FBI's investigation into corruption and fraud in college basketball.

According to a release issued by the committee, former Cowboys assistant coach Lamont Evans broke the NCAA's ethical conduct rules when he accepted between $18,150 and $22,000 in bribes from Adidas representatives in exchange for steering players to the school -- which is affiliated with the shoe company.

Among the penalties handed down for the Level I violation are:

  • Three years of probation.
  • A $10,000 fine plus 1% of the men’s basketball program budget (self-imposed by the university).
  • A reduction of men’s basketball scholarships by a total of three during the 2020-21 through 2022-23 academic years.
  • A reduction of men’s basketball official visits to 25 during the 2018-19/2019-20 rolling two-year period and to 18 during the 2019-20/2020-21 rolling two-year period (self-imposed by the university).
  • A prohibition of men’s basketball unofficial visits for two weeks during the fall of 2020 and two weeks during the fall of 2021 (self-imposed by the university). The university also must prohibit unofficial visits for three additional weeks during the fall of 2020, 2021 and/or 2022.
  • A prohibition of men’s basketball telephone recruiting for a one-week period during the 2020-21 academic year (self-imposed by the university). The university also must prohibit telephone recruiting for six additional weeks during the probation period.
  • A reduction in the number of men’s basketball recruiting person days by 12 during the 2019-20 academic year (self-imposed by the university). The university also must reduce the number of recruiting person days by five during the 2020-21 academic year.
  • A 10-year show-cause order for the former associate head coach. During that period, any NCAA member school employing him must restrict him from any athletically related duties unless it shows cause why the restrictions should not apply.
  • A prohibition of the men’s basketball staff from participating in off-campus evaluations for three consecutive days during the summer evaluation periods in 2020 (self-imposed by the university).

The ruling and the harsh punishment it carries will undoubtedly make for some nervous moments among the folks at NC State's Weisiger Brown Building.

That's because the Wolfpack's NCAA infractions case involving the recruitment of Dennis Smith Jr. is an offshoot of the federal trail that led to the convictions of former Adidas employee James Gatto, consultant Merl Code and runner Christian Dawkins.

So what, if anything, can State take away from the Oklahoma State verdict?

First and foremost, it's that the NCAA isn't playing games when it comes dealing with the "Play for Pay" scandal that took place in 2017.

“The conduct at issue in this case was related to a broader scheme that involved money and influence at the intersection of college and professional basketball,” the committee said in its decision.“The scheme resulted in the arrest and prosecution of multiple individuals — including college basketball coaches — on conspiracy and bribery charges, and it led to significant NCAA reforms."  

That having been said, there aren't a lot of direct parallels between Oklahoma State's case and the circumstances surround the allegations leveled against the Wolfpack.

The biggest difference is that Evans, the assistant coach at the center of the Oklahoma State mess, was arrested, pleaded guilty and sentenced to prison for his role abusing his position for personal gain. 

TJ Gassnola
Former Adidas representative Thomas "T.J." Gassnola

Although Adidas representative Thomas "T.J." Gassnola testified under oath that former Wolfpack assistant Orlando Early was the middle man in funneling $40,000 to Smith's representatives, Early has not been accused of accepting bribes, or any other crimes for that matter.

NC State, unlike Oklahoma State, has cut its ties with everyone directly implicated in the allegations against it. Both Early and head coach Mark Gottfried were both fired. There's even a new athletic director in Boo Corrigan. At Oklahoma State, current coach Mike Boynton was a member of the staff Evans when the violations occured.

Most important, the Oklahoma State case was adjudicated by the NCAA's Committee on Infractions. NC State's case has been referred to and accepted into the NCAA's new Independent Accountability Resolution Process.

That's not necessarily a better option, even though the members of the panel that will ultimately decide what to do with the Wolfpack are unaffiliated with the NCAA or its member schools. But it is different.

It should also be noted that unlike Oklahoma State, which immediately appealed the sanctions handed down on Friday, the decision of the IARP is final and binding, with no ability for redress.

As much as we'd like to use Oklahoma State's penalties as a harbinger of what might happen to NC State, the NCAA's inconsistent history in dealing with infractions cases -- along with the different tactics schools use to defend themselves -- makes it impossible to compare one to the other.

As a result, the answer to the question of how Friday's ruling will affect the Wolfpack's case is an unsatisfying one.

There's just no way of knowing.