NC State ap­pears to be test case for NCAA’s re­mod­eled process

The News & Observer - - Front Page - BY JOE GIGLIO [email protected]­sob­server.com

The NCAA has tweaked its rules and changed its investigat­ive process in the wake of a fed­eral in­ves­ti­ga­tion and tri­als into col­lege bas­ket­ball cor­rup­tion.

N.C. State, which re­leased the No­tice of Al­le­ga­tions it re­ceived from the NCAA on Wed­nes­day, will be the first school to go through the re­mod­eled NCAA wringer.

Why is N.C. State, and not one of the big­ger na­tional-brand pro­grams, going first?

Stuart Brown, an At­lantabased at­tor­ney who has han­dled NCAA cases for schools, coaches and ath­letes for 20 years, has a the­ory.

“The low­est-hang­ing fruit to come out of the first Adidas trial was the cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing N.C. State,” Brown told The News & Ob­server on Thurs­day. “It is the sim­plest case to im­port, as the (NCAA) en­force­ment staff is now al­lowed to do from direct tes­ti­mony from the trial.”

An NCAA ex­ec­u­tive said last month that “at least six” ma­jor Divi­sion I pro­grams will re­ceive an NOA from the NCAA this sum­mer. Kansas, Ari­zona, LSU, Louisville, Mi­ami, Auburn and South­ern Cal­i­for­nia are among the other schools who were in­volved, or men­tioned, in the fed­eral fraud and bribery tri­als in New York.

With that many cases ex­pected to fol­low, N.C. State’s also gives the NCAA the best chance at start­ing off with a win, Brown said.

“To put it in bas­ket­ball terms, the N.C. State case is more of a layup for the en­force­ment staff than the other po­ten­tial cases,” Brown said.

The NCAA amended its rules in Au­gust 2018 so that it “can accept in­for­ma­tion es­tab­lished by another ad­min­is­tra­tive body, in­clud­ing a court of law, gov­ern­ment agency, ac­cred­it­ing body or a com­mis­sion autho­rized by a school.” Pre­vi­ously, the NCAA had to con­duct its own in­ves­ti­ga­tions and wouldn’t have been able to use the in­for­ma­tion from the trial.

So, the NCAA can use the in­for­ma­tion from the fed­eral fraud case against former Adidas ex­ec­u­tive Jim Gatto.

The NCAA out­lined four po­ten­tial vi­o­la­tions in the NOA — two are of the ma­jor va­ri­ety and spe­cific to former coaches Or­lando Early and Mark Got­tfried. The pri­mary, and po­ten­tially most dam­ag­ing vi­o­la­tions, are all con­nected to the re­cruit­ment, and brief ten­ure, of bas­ket­ball star Dennis Smith Jr.

The NOA, which N.C. State re­ceived on Tues­day, cites the tes­ti­mony of former Adidas consultant T.J. Gass­nola dur­ing Gatto’s trial in fed­eral court in New York in Oc­to­ber. Gass­nola tes­ti­fied that he pro­vided a $40,000 pay­ment to Smith’s fam­ily dur­ing the re­cruit­ing process in 2015 and that Early was in­volved in the de­liv­ery of that money.

Smith was a highly-rated re­cruit out of Fayet­teville and chose N.C. State over other na­tional pow­ers. Pay­ing a re­cruit is ob­vi­ously against NCAA rules. Specif­i­cally in the NOA, Early “showed reck­less in­dif­fer­ence to the NCAA con­sti­tu­tion and by­laws” and “threat­ened the in­tegrity of the NCAA Col­le­giate Model.”

That the two “Level I” vi­o­la­tions are con­nected to former coaches is also not a co­in­ci­dence. After the FBI had made its cor­rup­tion case pub­lic nearly 22 months ago, the NCAA formed a com­mis­sion, headed by Con­doleezza Rice.

In April, the Rice Com­mis­sion re­port sug­gested re­forms and rule changes. Chief among them: “(S)ig­nif­i­cant ex­pan­sion in in­di­vid­ual ac­count­abil­ity for rules vi­o­la­tions for coaches, ath­letic di­rec­tors and col­lege pres­i­dents.”

In N.C. State’s case, Early and Got­tfried are the tar­get of the most se­vere pun­ish­ment. In Early’s case, it’s for the im­per­mis­si­ble ben­e­fits pro­vided to Smith dur­ing his re­cruit­ment and after — more than $6,600 in com­pli­men­tary tick­ets were pro­vided to Smith’s friends and

fam­ily.

In Got­tfried’s case, it’s for a fail­ure to mon­i­tor Early. Specif­i­cally in the NOA, Got­tfried “did not demon­strate that he mon­i­tored” Early or Early’s in­ter­ac­tions with Gass­nola or Smith dur­ing the re­cruit­ing process.

The NCAA also said Got­tfried was re­spon­si­ble to mon­i­tor his staff and the pro­vi­sion of com­pli­men­tary tick­ets. The po­ten­tial pun­ish­ment for both Early and Got­tfried is a “show-cause” or­der, which is the most se­vere penalty the NCAA can give a coach.

Early has been out of col­lege coach­ing since Got­tfried was fired dur­ing the 2016-17 sea­son and worked as a scout for the NBA’s Mem­phis Griz­zlies last sea­son. Got­tfried was hired by Cal State-Northridge last sea­son.

The NCAA con­nected N.C. State to two Level II vi­o­la­tions: one for the dis­tri­bu­tion of the ex­ces­sive com­pli­men­tary tick­ets to Smith’s fam­ily and friends and another for the fail­ure to mon­i­tor the ticket dis­tri­bu­tion.

The NCAA cited 150 com­pli­men­tary ticket vi­o­la­tions con­nected to Smith dur­ing the 2016-17 sea­son and another 14 dur­ing the 2015-16 sea­son con­nected to three other play­ers.

N.C. State, in a state­ment re­leased by the school on Wed­nes­day, was quick to point that “all four al­le­ga­tions are tied to former coaches who were well ed­u­cated about the rules and knew the rules, and if the al­le­ga­tions are true, those coaches chose to break the rules.”

New N.C. State ath­letic di­rec­tor Boo Cor­ri­gan, who was hired from Army in Jan­uary and re­placed former AD Deb­bie Yow in May, posted a state­ment on Twit­ter on Thurs­day which noted that none of the cur­rent bas­ket­ball coaches, or play­ers, were in­volved in any of the al­le­ga­tions.

“As a Univer­sity, we are be­ing transparen­t in ac­knowl­edg­ing our NOA, we will be ac­count­able where nec­es­sary but also vig­or­ously de­fend our pro­gram where needed,” Cor­ri­gan wrote.

“It is im­por­tant to point out, the al­le­ga­tions in­volve no one on our cur­rent coach­ing staff and we will make ev­ery ef­fort to sup­port Coach Keatts, the stu­dent-ath­letes and staff of our men’s bas­ket­ball pro­gram in achiev­ing their long-term goals.”

N.C. State has 90 days to re­ply to the NCAA and will even­tu­ally meet with the Com­mit­tee on In­frac­tions.

ETHAN HY­MAN ehy­[email protected]­sob­server.com

Former N.C. State head coach Mark Got­tfried talks with Dennis Smith Jr. as former as­sis­tant Or­lando Early lis­tens dur­ing a 2016 game. N.C. State re­ceived a No­tice of Al­le­ga­tions from the NCAA on Wed­nes­day, and all three in­di­vid­u­als are men­tioned in the no­tice.

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