NCAA to NC State: ‘Red flags’ in Dennis Smith recruiting process

NC State

DURHAM, NC – JANUARY 23: Dennis Smith Jr. #4 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack drives in for a dunk as time expires during their win against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 23, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. North Carolina State won 84-82. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — The NCAA says a former North Carolina State assistant coach exchanged hundreds of phone calls with a former Adidas consultant and the trainer for Dennis Smith Jr. while the pace accelerated in the recruitment for the Fayetteville native and eventual one-and-done player.

N.C. State on Monday released the latest arguments it received from the NCAA in the next step in the governing body’s investigation into the school’s men’s basketball program and its recruiting of Smith.

“Red flags surrounding Smith’s recruitment were abundant and not hidden,” according to the NCAA’s 48-page filing.

The N.C. State case is the first connected to the corruption scandal in college basketball to enter the NCAA’s infractions process. The governing body’s response — formally called its Enforcement Written Reply — was issued roughly two months after N.C. State pushed back on charges it formally received from the NCAA last July. Two of those are considered top-level charges.

The next step is a hearing before the NCAA’s infractions committee.

While much of the document stands as the NCAA’s self-affirmation to the notice of allegations it issued over the summer, this filing did include a summary of some of Gottfried’s and former assistant Orlando Early’s phone records.

The NCAA says those records show Early exchanged 103 phone calls with former Adidas consultant TJ Gassnola and 297 calls with Shawn Farmer, Smith’s former trainer, between August and November 2015, when N.C. State’s recruitment of Smith picked up.

The NCAA also alleges Early and Farmer exchanged 49 phone calls and Early and Gassnola exchanged 27 text messages and seven calls in an 11-day window in September 2015 — a time period that included Smith’s oral, non-binding commitment to N.C. State.

According to the NCAA document, Early communicated with Farmer and then immediately contacted Gottfried, or vice versa, 31 times from Oct. 30, 2015 — when Gassnola withdrew $40,000 from his bank account — and Nov. 12, 2015, the day after Smith signed his binding national letter of intent to attend the school.

The NCAA alleges that from 2014-17, Early provided Smith and his associates approximately $46,700 in impermissible inducements and benefits — including $40,000 that Gassnola testified he delivered to Early and was intended for Smith’s family in 2015. The NCAA says Gassnola flew to Raleigh and delivered the money to Early on Nov. 2.

The NCAA alleged that Gassnola was acting as an outside consultant for Adidas to ensure he would commit to N.C. State, which has an apparel deal with the school.

Elliot Abrams, Gottfried’s Raleigh-based attorney, told CBS 17 that he also has reviewed the NCAA’s consolidated reply to both the school and to Gottfried “and we look forward to presenting our positions at the upcoming hearing on this matter.”

The NCAA says Early did not cooperate with the investigation and did not file a response to the notice of allegations.

The NCAA has also said Gottfried was “presumed responsible” and did not demonstrate that he monitored Early for NCAA rules compliance. Gottfried is presently the head coach at Cal State Northridge.

“Despite these red flags, Gottfried did virtually nothing to ascertain the nature of Farmer’s and Gassnola’s roles in Smith’s recruitment,” according to the NCAA’s document.

Neither current N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts, who replaced Gottfried after he was fired in March 2017, nor his staff are linked to the case.

N.C. State challenged those charges in its December response to the NCAA, arguing that it has not proven the money was provided to Smith, his family or a friend of his. It also argued that the $40,000 wired to Gassnola didn’t come from the shoe company, but from someone apparently interested in representing Smith as an agent or business manager once the player turned professional.

“While we appreciate the NCAA Enforcement Staff’s detailed response, N.C. State remains in strong disagreement with many of the characterizations and conclusions in their Enforcement Written Reply,” Chancellor Randy Woodson said in a statement. “As we have said throughout this process, we will vigorously defend the university where necessary and take ownership where appropriate. We look forward to a hearing with the infractions committee and the opportunity to make our case in person.”

The less-severe charges are centered on complimentary admissions on the program’s guest pass list. Among the minor penalties the school self-imposed are a $5,000 fine and the reduction of a scholarship during a future season.

The school has already self-imposed minor penalties for those lesser charges, including a future scholarship reduction, recruiting restrictions and a $5,000 fine.

Smith’s only season playing for N.C. State was in 2016-17, when the Wolfpack finished 15-17 and fired Gottfried late during that season. Smith, who plays for the New York Knicks, is in his third season in the NBA.

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