NC State chancellor Woodson responds to allegations in FBI indictment

The statement officially identifies Dennis Smith Jr. as the former player alleged to have taken money from Adidas to play for the Wolfpack

Eamon Queeney—North State Journal
NC State athletic director Debbie Yow (left) and chancellor Randy Woodson (right) introduce Kevin Keatts as the Wolfpack's basketball coach in April 2017 (Eamon Queeney/North State Journal)

NC State chancellor Randy Woodson has issued a statement in response to allegations against his school’s men’s basketball program as part of a federal indictment handed down by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York last week.

The indictment against sports agent Christian Dawkins and Adidas executives James Gatto and Merl Code charged that the shoe company provided a payment of “approximately $40,000” through an unnamed Wolfpack coach to the father of an unnamed player to convince that player to honor his commitment to attend State.

Woodson’s statement identifies that player as Dennis Smith Jr., who was drafted in the first round by the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks after just one college season.

The chancellor also provided a detailed timeline of State’s involvement in the FBI investigation into college basketball recruiting corruption while maintaining that the payment to Smith “was designed to be concealed from both the NCAA and officials at NC State.”

Woodson added that State is “fully cooperating” with both federal officials and the NCAA.

But while the U.S. Attorney’s Office has “adamantly requested” that State keep details of the investigation confidential, Woodson has decided to reveal certain information about the case in the interest of transparency and to show that the university has worked “responsibility and proactively” in search of the truth.

“Given the details released by the Southern District of New York last week, and the information previously made public,” Woodson wrote, “we feel we can now provide our community more specifics about NC State’s involvement without jeopardizing the investigation.”

According to the timeline provided by Woodson, State officials first made contact with federal authorities last September, after a series of arrests were made against people representing Adidas, several college basketball programs and top recruiting prospects.

Although the Wolfpack was not mentioned in the original indictments, State’s sponsorship agreement with Adidas led the school’s general counsel and office of athletic compliance “to err on the side of caution” by proactively contacting former coach Mark Gottfried and members of his staff about the case.

All denied having any knowledge of or involvement in the FBI investigation.

About a month later, though, State’s general counsel spoke with a registered sports agent from Wilmington who indicated that Smith may have been influenced to play for the Wolfpack by Adidas through a payment to the player’s father.

The agent has been identified by WWAY-TV in Wilmington as Gary Shipman, a candidate for NC House.

State subsequently informed the FBI of the allegation, which led to the university receiving a subpoena to provide records pertaining to the case. The subpoena was issued on Jan. 16. State publicly acknowledged it on March 16 under the North Carolina Public Records Act. The superseding indictment against Dawkins, Gatto and Code was issued last Tuesday.

That indictment, as Woodson stressed more than once in his statement, said that the payment to Smith “was designed to be concealed from both the NCAA and officials at NC State.” But that might not be enough to protect the Wolfpack from potential NCAA sanctions, since a former coach is directly involved.

Woodson praised athletic director Debbie Yow for her emphasis on following NCAA rules and State’s compliance office for acting “proactively, ethically and responsible” in reporting the information it received to the FBI, adding that State would “have no tolerance for those who would choose to damage the reputation of this great university.”