NC State

How upbeat sports year for NC State took negative turn after link to FBI investigation

N.C. State’s athletic department has put together its most successful year. Normally, that would make Wolfpack athletic director Debbie Yow happy.

Instead, N.C. State’s success — across all sports since the start of the 2017-18 academic calendar — is being overshadowed by the university’s involvement in an FBI investigation into corruption in college basketball.

N.C. State was one of four schools named by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York on Tuesday as being defrauded by an adidas executive.

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Yow was in Dallas on Wednesday for administrative meetings. She should be celebrating the school’s current department-wide success, No. 4 in the Directors’ Cup standings. Instead, she’s trying to figure out how to handle the information from Tuesday’s indictment.

“There has been an intentional and consistent emphasis regarding the expectation that all NCAA rules and regulations are to be followed by all coaches and staff,” Yow wrote in a text message to The News & Observer on Wednesday.

“We are learning about the current concerns in real time like everyone else. We can guarantee that any violation of our expectation of compliance will be responded to in a way to protect the integrity of our program and the University.”

No current or former N.C. State employees have been indicted by the FBI. The information revealed on Tuesday could lead to potential trouble with the NCAA for N.C. State.

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The documents describe “a coach at North Carolina State University (“Coach-4”)” being involved in a $40,000 payment, from an adidas executive to the “father of a student-athlete,” which would be an NCAA violation.

The documents don’t name any N.C. State players but details in them make it clear the student-athlete is Dennis Smith Jr., who played for the Wolfpack in the 2016-17 season before entering the NBA draft.

Smith told a Dallas Morning News reporter on Wednesday that he did not want to talk about the FBI investigation but that he was not worried about it.

Dennis Smith Sr., who was his son’s AAU coach for an adidas-sponsored team, did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

The documents don’t identify “Coach-4” but in January the school received a subpoena from the FBI that asked personnel files for former head coach Mark Gottfried and former assistant coach Orlando Early.

Neither Gottfried nor Early have responded to multiple requests for comment.

Yow fired Gottfried with four games left in the 2016-17 season for on-court problems, the team was 3-11 in ACC play at the time, and the general stagnation of the program.

She hired Kevin Keatts last April to replace Gottfried and Keatts led the Wolfpack back to the NCAA tournament in his first season.

Men’s basketball was one of 14 N.C. State programs (out of 15) to reach the postseason during the 2017-18 campaign, which has fueled the school’s Directors’ Cup success.

The No. 4 ranking is tops among ACC teams and is the highest position the school has ever reached. N.C. State finished No. 89 in 2010, the year before Yow was hired from Maryland.

Two teams, wrestling and men’s swimming and diving, had national top-5 finishes. Eight more teams are competing in the spring, including the baseball team, which has reached No. 2 in several national polls.

Across the athletic department, the “graduate success rate,” as measured by the NCAA, is the highest the athletic department has achieved.

But those numbers are secondary now as Yow and N.C. State deal with the FBI scandal.