N.C. State disassociates former player Eric Leak

jgiglio@newsobserver.comNovember 29, 2011 

— N.C. State has sent a disassociation letter to former Wolfpack football player Eric Leak for providing impermissible benefits to C.J. Leslie, a sophomore forward on the school’s basketball team and to former N.C. State basketball player Tracy Smith.

The letter, which was sent Nov. 23 and signed by athletic director Debbie Yow, bars Leak from any contact with current or future N.C. State athletes and from the school’s athletic facilities, specifically for basketball and football.

The university released the letter to the News & Observer on Tuesday as the result of a public records request.

Leak, 34, is also not allowed to rent a suite at the RBC Center or Carter-Finley Stadium through his Dunn-based business, E Squared Community Services. The disassociation is effective for 10 years, according to the letter.

“That’s a little harsh, but I understand,” Leak said in an interview Tuesday.

Leslie was suspended by the NCAA for the first three games of the season for accepting improper benefits, detailed in a previous release issued on Nov. 11 by N.C. State. In that earlier release, published the day of the Wolfpack men’s basketball opener against UNC Asheville, the university announced that Leslie and his half-brother had received impermissible benefits totaling $410.

N.C. State reported the violations to the NCAA and conducted a joint inquiry with the NCAA, according to the university release.

Reached Tuesday, Leak apologized for getting Leslie suspended but said he has not read the disassociation letter. Leak confirmed the allegations cited in the letter when a reporter read them to him in a phone interview.

According to the letter, Leak lent Leslie a vehicle in 2011 and paid for the application fee for an apartment rental for a half-brother of Leslie’s. Leak said he allowed Leslie to use his car after Leslie got into a car accident, which occurred on May 25, according to a Raleigh police department accident report.

The NCAA estimated the value of the car that Leslie borrowed, had it been rented, to be $150. Leak said the car that Leslie borrowed was registered under the name of his wife Emily Leak. She is also addressed at the top of the disassociation letter, but Leak said his wife “has absolutely nothing to do with any of this.”

Leak disputed the fact that he paid for the apartment application fee for Kevin Leslie, C.J. Leslie’s half-brother. The NCAA valued that fee at $260. Leslie had to repay the total of $410 to charity as part of his punishment, in addition to the three-game suspension that he completed.

The disassociation letter also states that Leak paid the rent of a “former student-athlete” in 2010. Leak said he gave Smith, who finished his four-year basketball career at N.C. State in March, two rent payments. According to the university’s previous release about Leslie’s suspension, the payments were worth $1,349.

Smith, the team’s top scorer each of the last two seasons, is playing professional basketball in Pakistan and could not be reached for comment.

Leak said he and Smith are friends and have been since Smith was in high school at Mount Zion Academy in Durham. The two would hang out and play video games at Leak’s home in Raleigh, Leak said. Smith was late on his rent and needed the money, Leak said. Smith borrowed the money and repaid him, Leak said.

“I was put between a rock and a hard place, and I made a decision,” Leak said. “Honestly, the NCAA was the furthest thing from my mind. I was just trying to help a friend.”

Meeting with the NCAA

Leak said Tuesday that he met with a member of N.C. State’s compliance department and an NCAA representative shortly before the basketball season started on Nov. 11. He said the NCAA asked him if he was a sports agent or working for an agent. He said he was not.

According to the web site for his company, E Squared Community Services, the firm works in conjunction with the North Carolina Department of Mental Health and provides psychological services and outpatient therapy. Leak said the company has offices in North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Florida.

Originally from Forest Hills, Leak was a reserve receiver and running back for former N.C. State football coach Mike O’Cain during his first three seasons. Leak played a larger role in the offense as a senior for coach Chuck Amato during quarterback Philip Rivers’ freshman season. Leak caught 32 passes for 396 yards with two touchdowns as a senior during an eight-win Wolfpack season. He had four catches for 76 yards in N.C. State’s bowl win over Minnesota in 2000, his last college game.

Other than a suite his company rents at Carter-Finley Stadium, Leak said he has had no interaction with the football program.

Through a school spokesperson, both football coach Tom O’Brien and first-year basketball coach Mark Gottfried referred all questions to Yow. In an email to the News & Observer, Yow wrote: “The compliance staff in athletics worked with the NCAA staff to determine the facts and the information gathered has been provided to the NCAA.”

One of the stipulations in the letter of disassociation is that Leak can’t receive complimentary tickets from the players or the coaching staff. Leak said he attended several basketball games during the 2010-11 season and that Smith would leave him tickets.

Leak can still attend the games, according to the letter, but he cannot purchase season tickets.

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