Former NC State head basketball coach under investigation by FBI for paying players


Mark Gottfried (left) coaches an NC State basketball practice in 2013.

Adam Shefet, Sports Editor

In 2016 North Carolina State’s basketball program fired long-time head coach, Mark Gottfried, a former player with Alabama and winner of the 1995 NCAA tournament as an assistant coach with UCLA. In March 2019, the FBI began an investigation into Gottfried for making impermissible payments to players, specifically former NC State guard, Dennis Smith Jr.

According to federal prosecutors, former NC State assistant coach Orlando Early’s attorney said that Gottfried gave Early envelopes on two occasions, containing what Early believed was cash. This cash was to be delivered to Smith Jr.’s trainer to make sure he signed with NC State in 2015.

Once the envelopes were delivered to Smith Jr.’s trainer, he was to hand them back off to Dennis Smith Sr., father to the former NC state player.

NCAA rules state that, “a prospective student-athlete may accept prize money as long as the amount of the prize is less than or equal to his or her expenses for participating in competition, such as meals or lodging. The prize money may not pay for expenses of parents or coaches.”

Early believes that the Smith family received about $100,000, obviously exceeding the maximum of a scholarship offer for the university.

Former Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola, testified during an October trial that he made two payments to people close to Smith Jr. in the season and a half that he spent with the team. The first payment was allegedly paid to Smith Jr. during his junior year at Trinity Christian School in Fayetteville, N.C.. The second payment came in Smith Jr.’s senior year after he had committed to NC State as he was “having issues with keeping that situation together,” regarding upholding his commitment.

Gassnola also testified that he gave $40,000 in cash to Early in Nov. 2015. Early told Gassnola he was going to give the money to Farmer. Gassnola said Adidas had full knowledge of the situation and reimbursed him the money.

“This is a really embarrassing situation for State. We shouldn’t have to pay our players to choose to come to the program. We need players that want to represent us and not players who play for the cash,” said Joshua Burkhardt, sophomore.

Mark Gottfried was fired from the role as head coach after three blowout loses at the tail end of the 2016-2017 season. He was hired as the head coach for Cal State Northridge in March 2018.

“I don’t foresee any red flags that I’m aware of… It’s a situation that’s much bigger than all of us. It has affected a lot of programs. I’m confident that should be behind us pretty quickly,” said Gottfried.