At the heart of the matter, the allegation that assistant coach Orlando Early sought and then facilitated a $40,000 dollar payment to be delivered to Dennis Smith Jr. in order to secure his commitment to NC State.
As I wrote at the time, NC State basically told the NCAA to prove it.
With its 48-page Feb. 7 response, the NCAA has now obliged that request in its estimation.
I won't get too deep into the weeds, but with the help of phone records and evidence collected during the federal investigation into college hoops corruption, the NCAA outlined how the relationship between Early and Smith family conduit Shawn Farmer was initiated with the help of Adidas bagman TJ Gassnola and how that relationship quickly intensified as Smith's recruitment picked up.
Gassnola testified that he delivered the $40,000 to Early in Raleigh on Nov. 2. The very next day, the NCAA detailed a whole string of contacts, all in a 52-minute span, between Early and all the relevant characters in the investigation.
Reading over the NCAA's response to NC State it definitely strains credulity that Orlando Early didn't deliver the 40k from Gassnola to Farmer, and on to the Smith family. Early won't talk, so he's clearly got alternate career plans outside of college coaching. pic.twitter.com/GSpzTSMtMA— Mark Armstrong (@ArmstrongABC11) February 11, 2020
There are many more specifics provided in the response. The NCAA also countered NC State's arguments that "if" a payment had occurred, it was money that derived from an agent and was thus, not technically designed to guarantee his commitment to NC State.
There are also disputes about the timeline and applicability of much of the evidence as well as the credibility of the Gassnola, the prime witness in the case. The NCAA says Adidas executive Jim Gatto admitted all the details that Gassnola testified to and was subsequently found guilty in the criminal case, so if the evidence is strong enough there, then it's certainly strong enough as it pertains to enforcing NCAA rules.
There is yet no final hearing date set, but in a statement released Monday, NC State Chancellor Randy Woodson said: "While we appreciate the NCAA Enforcement Staff's detailed response, NC State remains in strong disagreement with many of the characterizations and conclusions in their Enforcement Written Reply. As we have said throughout this process, we will vigorously defend the university where necessary and take ownership where appropriate. We look forward to a hearing with the infractions committee and the opportunity to make our case in person."
Early has refused to speak to NCAA investigators and is currently out of the college game. Mark Gottfried has a separate legal team that is handling his case. Dennis Smith himself has denied receiving any payments.