North Carolina State University isn’t taking the NCAA’s Notice of Allegations laying down.
In Monday’s 66-page response to the NCAA acquired by The News & Observer, the university questions violations allegedly committed by the N.C. State men’s basketball program.
The NCAA’s Notice of Allegations, which N.C. State received in July, revolved around four violations regarding former basketball player Dennis Smith Jr., who is now a member of the New York Knicks.
The allegations are headlined by a $40,000 payment from former Adidas associate T.J. Gassnola to Smith Jr. Gassnola testified in federal court in 2018 that he “gave (former N.C. State assistant coach) Orlando Early $40,000 to give to the family of Dennis Smith.” Smith has denied he was paid.
N.C. State’s response, which was prepared by the Bond, Schoeneck & King law firm, questions the evidence and disputes the NCAA’s Level I allegations.
"When this process started, we promised accountability where appropriate and vigorous defense where necessary, and our response does exactly that," N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson said in a statement to Sports Illustrated. "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.”
Gassnola’s court testimony included receipts from a trip to Raleigh, N.C. to deliver the $40,000 and a bank statement showing he withdrew that amount. Gassnola testified that Early was supposed to deliver it to Smith’s former trainer Shawn Farmer, who would deliver it to Dennis Smith Sr.
N.C. State’s response argued that Gassnola isn’t a credible witness and said there’s no evidence that Farmer or Smith received the money. The response also expressed the belief that the $40,000 payment wasn’t intended to entice Smith Jr. to go to N.C. State. Gassnola testified that he received the money from Martin Fox, who the school says was working as a middle man for agent Andy Miller. N.C. State alleges that the payment was intended to encourage Smith Jr. to sign with Miller once he reached the NBA.
“N.C. State strenuously disputes and is contesting the NCAA’s most serious Level I allegation based on a lack of evidence of a recruiting violation, combined with the improper use of information from a criminal trial,” Fred Demarest, a senior associate athletic director, said in a statement released by the school. “As a result, we assert that this infractions case should be viewed as, at most, a potential Level II case.”
N.C. State accepts that Level II or Level III violations were made when Smith and his family received excess complimentary tickets to basketball games while the university failed to monitor the ticket distribution process. The NCAA found the ticket issues resulted in $4,562 impermissible benefits to Smith’s family and $2,119 to Farmer.
The N.C. State response also announced self-imposed sanctions, including losing one scholarship for the 2021-22 recruiting class, unless one opens up before then; the reduction in the number of official recruiting visits during the 2019-20 academic year; the prohibition of unofficial visits during a two-week period during the 2019-20 academic year; and a $5,000 fine.
The NCAA has 60 days to respond to N.C. State. A Level I violation could mean the Wolfpack vacating 15 wins from 2016-17, receiving a postseason ban, facing scholarship reductions or paying a fine.
Smith Jr., a North Carolina native, played one year for the Wolfpack, averaging 18.1 points, 6.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game in 2016-17.