Notice of Allegations accuses NC State basketball of major violations

The NCAA charges against former coaches Mark Gottfried and Orlando Early stem from the recruitment of one-and-done star Dennis Smith Jr.

Christine T. Nguyen—The North State Journal
Former NC State coach Mark Gottfried gives instructions to Dennis Smith Jr. during a game in 2016-17 (Christine T. Nguyen/North State Journal)

   RALEIGH — NC State has been formally accused of two major NCAA violations and two lesser infractions for its recruitment of basketball star Dennis Smith Jr.

   The university issued a statement Wednesday acknowledging that it has received a Notice of Allegations outlining charges against former coach Mark Gottfried and his top assistant Orlando Early. The alleged violations are connected to an FBI investigation that has led to the conviction in criminal court of Adidas executive James Gatto, consultant Merl Code and business manager Christian Dawkins.

   According to the notice, Early is accused of being the middleman in a payment of $40,000 by an Adidas consultant to Smith’s family in October 2015 as an inducement to play for the Wolfpack. Gottfried, who is now the coach at Cal State Northridge, is charged with a “failure to monitor” Early’s actions in Smith’s recruitment.

   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 its statement announcing receipt of the NCAA’s correspondence, the university called the Notice of Allegations “the expected next step in an NCAA process following the federal government’s inquiry into college basketball.” The statement added that State was first made aware of the charges last October and has “voluntarily and fully cooperated, and will continue to fully cooperate, with the NCAA throughout this process.”

   At the same time, the university has begun to distance itself from Gottfried and Early, stating that the former coaches “were well educated about the rules and knew the rules, and that if the allegations are true, those coaches chose to break the rules.”

   Gottfried and his staff were fired after the 2016-17 season. No members of the Wolfpack’s current staff were implicated by the NCAA, a fact prominently mentioned by new athletic director Boo Corrigan in a message to his school’s fans posted on Twitter on Thursday.

“We will make every effort to support Coach (Kevin) Keatts, the student-athletes and staff of our men’s basketball program in achieving their long-term goals,” wrote Corrigan, who took over for the retiring Debbie Yow on May 1. “As a program, we will continue to operate with the highest commitment to compliance, honesty and integrity, and adhering to NCAA rules.”

   Smith was one of the nation’s top recruits in the Class of 2016 and his commitment was seen as a major victory for 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.

   Smith was one of six college players named by federal prosecutors in the case against Gatto, Code and Dawkins. The three were convicted last fall of conspiracy to commit wire fraud for funneling illegal payments to the players in return for them attending Adidas sponsored schools. Other programs connected to the federal case — including traditional powers Kansas and Arizona — are also expected to face NCAA charges.

   State, Gottfried and Early have 90 days to respond to the Notice of Allegations. After that, a hearing before the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions will be scheduled.

   “NC State is committed to the highest levels of compliance, honesty and integrity,” chancellor Randy Woodson said in his school’s statement. “As the university carefully reviews the NCAA’s allegations and thoroughly evaluates the evidence in order to determine our response, we are prepared to be accountable where we believe it is appropriate and to vigorously defend this great university and its Athletics program where we feel it is necessary.”