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The last time we caught a glimpse of State basketball, we lost to some rando team from the Mountain West Conference in a game that didn’t include a single play worthy of being included in a highlight reel. Many questions were asked at that point. Will a Keatts team at State ever be able to defend in the half court, rebound, or consistently shoot from 3? Well, we should get an answer to those questions shortly with the season set to soon begin tonight.
However, the other big question with the program is, “what’s going on with that whole NCAA investigation?” Well, after years of waiting, the answer to that question is that no one really knows (still).
As the season gets underway, I’ve provided a timeline below to catch everyone up on what has all gone on with this mess over the last 6+ years. Any date in the timeline below that doesn't have a link associated with it was pulled from one of these two documents provided by NCSU:
- September 10, 2015: DSJ committed to NCSU.
- <Some time passed that featured some truly terrible basketball.>
- February 16, 2017: NCSU announced that Mark Gottfried and his staff had been fired, effective at season’s end, but also noted that the outgoing staff would coach the remainder of the 2016-2017 season (also affectionately known as the “we don’t talk about that season” season). At the time of Gottfried’s firing, he had three years remaining on his deal, with a $2.28M total price tag.
- March 17, 2017: Kevin Keatts is hired to head the Men’s Basketball program at NCSU.
- June 22, 2017: DSJ is taken #9 overall in the NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks.
- September 26, 2017: The US Attorney’s Office announced that there was a series of complaints against Adidas and various MBB programs – however – there was no mention of NCSU involvement at that time. It was at this point that NCSU began to contact current and former basketball coaches to see if there was anything to worry about on State’s end with regard to the Adidas investigation.
- August 8, 2017: DSJ signs with Under Armour and not Adidas. (Just an all time bad ROI for Adidas here.)
- October 12, 2017: An athlete agent in NC contacted NCSU General Counsel and asked to speak with them.
- October 19, 2017: The agent informed NCSU General Counsel that they believed DSJ’s enrollment at NCSU was due to Adidas’ influence on DSJ’s family members.
- October 25, 2017: NCSU conducted an in-person interview with the agent in question, where the agent stated that they had no direct knowledge of payments and that no NCSU employee was involved, but then declined to share with NCSU which individuals were involved. (Really productive meeting here!)
- October 30, 2017: NCSU sent a registered letter to the agent summarizing the information that the agent provided during the 10/25/2017 meeting and asked the agent to confirm the contents of the letter, but the agent did not respond. (Again, just a really productive relationship with this agent.)
- November 15, 2017: NCSU General Counsel provided the information from the athlete agent to a Raleigh FBI Agent.
- December 11, 2017: The Raleigh FBI Agent contacted NCSU and informed the University that the information had been passed onto the attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York ("SDNY").
- January 17, 2018: NCSU General Counsel received a subpoena via email.
- January 23, 2018: NCSU began collecting records related to the inquiry under the order of the subpoena.
- February 23-24, 2018: Yahoo Sports published a series of articles referencing payments made to DSJ's family.
- March 1, 2018: NCSU contacted the NCAA to advise them of intended inquiries based on information contained in the Yahoo Sports articles.
- March 9, 2018: In response to a Washington Post inquiry, and with knowledge of SDNY US Attorneys, NCSU confirmed to the Post that the University received a subpoena from the SDNY.
- March 13, 2018: Gottfried is hired as head coach at California State University-Northridge ("CSUN"). His hiring at CSUN saved NCSU a large portion of the original $2.28M that was owed to him subsequent to his firing. (There's no chance that CSUN later comes to regret this decision, right? #Foreshadowing....)
- March 16, 2018: NCSU released the subpoena to the media.
- April 17, 2018: NCSU Chancellor Randy Woodson released a statement in relation to the indictment where he noted that the federal indictment stated that “the payment was designed to be concealed from both the NCAA and officials at NC State.”
- August 17, 2018: NCSU released thousands of documents that detailed the case to that point.
- October 11, 2018: Ex-Adidas consultant TJ Gassnola testified that he “…gave Orlando Early $40,000 to give to the family of Dennis Smith.” At this time, the alleged payment was purported to have gone from Gassnola, then to Early, then to trainer Shawn Farmer, and then to Dennis Smith, Sr.
- January 30, 2019: Boo Corrigan was hired as NCSU’s new Athletic Director, effective May 1, 2019, replacing outgoing AD Debbie Yow, who retired.
- July 10, 2019: NC State received an NCAA Notice of Allegations ("NOA"). The NOA included one Level One violation against NC State in connection to the alleged $40k payment, one Level One violation against Mark Gottfried for failure to monitor during DSJ’s recruitment, and then lower level violations connected to excessive complimentary tickets.
- September 3, 2019: A judge denied the NCAA access to the evidence that the FBI gathered in the college basketball corruption trials.
- September 10, 2019: Gassnola avoided prison time in the college bribery scandal.
- September 24, 2019: DSJ denied that he was paid by “anyone at NC State.”
- December 9, 2019: NC State disputed the NCAA’s Level One allegation, citing a ”lack of evidence” for the violation. NC State then questioned the credibility of Gassnola given his previous criminal history and the continued lack of actual documentation that the alleged payment was ever actually made.
NC State also accepted that a number of Level 2 and 3 violations related to complimentary basketball game tickets occurred. The University then self-imposed financial, scholarship and recruiting penalties as a result of these violations.
However, as noted in this article by Joe Giglio: NC State also made an argument regarding the source of the money, given that Gassnola testified that the payment was an indirect transfer of money to DSJ's family from a sports agent. As such, NCSU argued that the alleged payment should be reclassified as an “impermissible benefit” rather than a “recruiting inducement” (Go semantics!). The key in this wording difference is that an impermissible benefit is essentially a step down from a recruiting inducement, and therefore the alleged payment would have no longer been classified as a Level One violation.
- February 7, 2020: The NCAA replied to NC State, and laid out what they constituted as evidence that the alleged payment occurred, which involved:
(1) Phone records obtained by the NCAA that showed Early called Gassnola multiple times the week prior to 10/30/2015;
(2) On 10/30/2015, Gassnola withdrew $40,000, and Early and Gassnola had further communications;
(3) Flight records that indicated Gassnola flew to Raleigh in early November; and
(4) Gassnola had subsequent communication with both Gottfried and Early.
The article also noted that the NCAA claimed that they could base their decision for punishments on “information that circumstantially supports the alleged violation”. As such, the NCAA claimed that the phone records and testimony from Gassnola was sufficient to support their case that the alleged payment was made. In this communication, the NCAA also continued referring to the alleged payment as a “recruiting inducement” rather than NCSU’s claim of an “impermissible benefit”, to keep the alleged payment within the Level One violation classification.
- April 8, 2020: NC State agreed to have this case decided through the new Independent Accountability Resolution Process (“IARP”) rather than through the NCAA’s Committee on Infractions.
The IARP is an independent panel of 15 investigators that was set up to review NCAA infractions cases. As explained in this article, the entire “allure” of choosing to go with IARP is that the IARP panel is comprised of individuals with no ties to any NCAA school and that the individuals on the panel are supposed to look at the case through more of a legal lens (rather than the NCAA's preferred lens of "whatever we choose to do, you're not going to like or agree with any of it"). However, the catch to this process is that any decision issued by the IARP is binding and not eligible for appeal.
- September 2, 2020: Mark Gottfried sued NC State in federal court and alleged that NC State stopped making settlement payments owed to him after his firing in February 2017. The lawsuit indicated that NCSU stopped making payments to Gottfried on August 31, 2018.
- December 2, 2020: Boo Corrigan told the N&O that NCSU would not self-impose a postseason ban on men’s basketball. As of December 2, 2020, the case was on day 50 of a 90-day period that the IARP was supposed to take to review cases. However, even when that period was up, the IARP could still have extended the timeline or issued additional questions. (Considering that its now nearly December 2021 - I'm guessing that's the route that was taken.)
- April 29, 2021: Mark Gottfried and his staff at CSUN were placed on leave amid potential rules violations. (#Foreshadowing payoff.)
- August 12, 2021: NC State settled with Mark Gottfried's camp for $400k, which was about $120k less than he was owed under the original deal.
- October 12, 2021: IARP released an "updated" timeline on the NCSU case that included a whole lot of nothing. Similar timeline "updates" were provided by the IARP for other infractions cases related to Kansas, LSU, Louisville, Memphis and Arizona.
Unless a whole lot has happened behind the scenes, this investigation has now been crawling along for nearly four-years, with next to no new information coming to light during the majority of that period, and we still don’t have any idea of when a ruling may be issued.
My take on this entire affair is that this payment likely occurred, and that in a "perfect" (pre-AFAM) world, State's MBB program should probably have some sort of punishment related to the alleged payment. However, if a university can have athletes enroll in a shadow curriculum of courses for the better part of three decades, have one of those athletes allege that everyone in athletics knew what was going on (and for that allegation not to constitute “information that circumstantially supports the alleged violation” for the NCAA in this case), and then that university can still manage to get off on a relative technicality (other than getting the entire university slapped with probation by its accreditation association), then why should anyone have to abide by NCAA “rules”?
Additionally in State's case, if (1) the alleged payment in question cannot actually be proven to have legally occurred, (2) DSJ denies that the payment did occur, (3) the FBI did not allow the NCAA to use any of the evidence gathered during the FBI’s criminal investigation, and (4) the original indictment specifically noted that “the payment was designed to be concealed from both the NCAA and officials at NC State”, then I don’t understand why NCSU should/would take any punishment related to this.
However, this case is going to the IARP – where any final decision is binding and not eligible for appeal. From a legal perspective (which is supposed to be the perspective taken by the IARP), there’s no direct evidence that this payment from Adidas/agents/whoever to DSJ's family was ever actually completed. However, this is still an NCAA process – so who actually knows what will happen, when it will happen, or why what eventually happens did happen.
Confused? Good. Because I'm convinced that the NCAA feeds off the collective confusion of the general public.