State Submits Response to NCAA Allegations

Brett Friedlander

NC State has formally responded to the NCAA Notice of Allegations it received on July 9, informing the governing body that it "strenuously disputes and is contesting" the most serious charge against it in the matter involving former basketball star Dennis Smith Jr.

Smith, 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 trial in New York last year that he funneled the money to Smith's "handlers" in exchange for steering the player to State. 

But in a 60-page response submitted to the NCAA on Monday, the university challenged the most serious Level I recruiting violation. Citing a lack of documentation, "combined with the improper use of information from a criminal trial," State asserted that "the case should be viewed as, at most, a potential (less serious) Level II case." 

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"When this process started, we promised accountability where appropriate and vigorous defense where necessary, and our response does exactly that," chancellor Randy Woodson said in a statement. "We look forward to a thorough and accurate review by the panel of the committee on infractions and a fair resolution of this case for the university and the NCAA.”

Smith was one of the nation’s top recruits in the Class of 2016 and his commitment was seen as a major victory for former coach Mark Gottfried in his attempt to return the Wolfpack to national prominence. 

But things didn’t exactly go as planned. 

Although the Fayetteville native averaged 18.1 points per game and was named the ACC’s Rookie of the Year, State went just 15-17 (4-14 in conference play) in Smith’s only college season. He was taken by the Dallas Mavericks with the ninth overall pick in the first round of the 2017 NBA draft.

Last summer, Smith was one of six college players named by federal prosecutors in the case against several Adidas officials convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for funneling illegal payments to the players in return for them attending Adidas sponsored schools. 

Former Wolfpack assistant Orlando Early was accused by the NCAA of being the middleman in the $40,000 payment to Smith. Gottfried, who is now the coach at Cal State Northridge, is charged with a “failure to monitor” Early’s actions in Smith’s recruitment.

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

"NC State takes its responsibility for NCAA rules compliance and the integrity of its intercollegiate athletics programs seriously," the school wrote in its response. "The athletics department has implemented extensive policies procedures and systems designed to detect, deter and prevent potential NCAA rules violations and, if violations nonetheless occur, to detect and report them."

In addition to the more serious charges involving Smith, State is also alleged to have provided complimentary tickets to home basketball games and providing Smith and other recruits with parking passes to the Wolfpack’s 2014 football game against Florida State.

In it's response, the school accepted the NCAA's findings on the Level II and Level III violations, and indicated that "corrective measures have been implemented."

It also suggested several self-imposed sanctions for those lesser violations, including a $5,000 fine, the loss of a scholarship for the 2021-22 recruiting class and a reduction in the number of recruiting visits allowed during the 2019-20 academic year.

The NCAA now has 90 days to respond to Moday's filing before setting a date for State officials to appear before its Committee on Infractions.