N.C. State compliance director Carrie Doyle testified in federal court in New York on Tuesday that she had no prior knowledge of a $40,000 payment made to the father of Dennis Smith Jr. to secure his son’s commitment to play basketball for the Wolfpack.
The government alleges that former Adidas executive James Gatto gave $40,000 to an unnamed N.C. State assistant basketball coach who then passed it on to Dennis Smith Sr. in the fall of 2015. Casey Donnelly, Gatto’s attorney, told the court earlier in the trial, on Oct. 2, her client made the payment.
“What, if anything, did you know about the payment of approximately $40,000 to the father of Dennis Smith Jr. in connection with Smith Jr.’s decision to attend N.C. State University?” U.S. assistant district attorney Noah Solowiejczyk asked Doyle on Tuesday, according to a court transcript obtained by The News & Observer.
“I have no knowledge,” Doyle answered.
Doyle was called to testify in the federal wire fraud and conspiracy trial of Gatto, former Adidas employee Merl Code and former agent runner Christian Dawkins. The FBI’s case involves corruption in college basketball that involved Adidas employees, agents and coaches paying players as a way to get them to play at certain schools and to sign with Adidas upon entering the NBA.
On Tuesday, Doyle was questioned about the scheme, an unauthorized recruiting trip involving former Wolfpack coaches Mark Gottfried and Orlando Early’s use of a helicopter, and the relationship between Smith Sr. and Eric Leak, a former football player at N.C. State and agent runner who had previously been disassociated from the university.
Dennis Smith Jr. and Dennis Smith Sr.
Early in her testimony, Doyle was asked by Solowiejczyk what would have happened if N.C. State had been aware of the $40,000 payment made to Smith Sr., according to the court transcript.
“If we had found out about it before we had issued the financial aid and it was determined to be valid and true information, we would never have provided the athletics scholarship,” Doyle said. “If we found out about it after the aid had already been disbursed, we would not award future aid”
Doyle added that it wouldn’t have mattered if Smith, Jr., had no knowledge of the payment. A payment to his father, she testified, would be an NCAA violation.
Smith, from Fayetteville, enrolled at N.C. State for the 2016 spring semester and played basketball for the Wolfpack during the 2016-17 season before entering the NBA. Gottfried and his staff, including Early, were fired in February 2017.
Doyle also testified that she had no knowledge of the involvement of an N.C. State assistant coach and an Adidas consultant in the payment to secure Smith’s commitment.
When asked what would have happened if she had discovered that such a payment occurred, Doyle said the coach “would have been fired.”
Mark Gottfried, Orlando Early and a helicopter
In 2015 Gottfried, then the head coach, and Early, an assistant heavily involved in Smith Jr.’s recruitment, flew in a helicopter to visit Smith Jr. at Trinity Christian High School in Fayetteville.
Doyle testified on Tuesday that she was “irritated” that she learned of the trip in “real time” through Twitter and had no advance knowledge of it, which was not normal procedure for recruiting visits.
“The coaches, generally speaking, run all of these kinds of things by the compliance staff to make sure that whatever it is they’re going to do is in accordance with NCAA rules and that we’re avoiding potholes and pitfalls, and in this instance they didn’t do that.”
Doyle was concerned that the trip occurred during the school day, which is against NCAA rules. She also was concerned the publicity during the trip, which also involved a visit to a second recruit, Edrice “Bam” Adebayo. Adebayo was not named in the trial on Tuesday.
Doyle testified that she subsequently determined that no rules violations had occurred with the trip. She reported her findings to the NCAA, who agreed that the trip was within the rules.
Doyle also became concerned that Eric Leak, a former N.C. State football player who the school disassociated itself from in 2011 in light of NCAA violations, was involved with Smith Jr.’s recruitment.
“My understanding is that Coach Gottfried was the one that brought forward the information that Eric Leak might be in contact with Dennis Smith Sr.,” Doyle said Tuesday.
Doyle said she met with Gottfried and N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow to address the situation.
“We decided that Orlando Early, being the primary recruiting coach, should go and talk with Dennis Smith Sr., and determine the extent to which these conversations were occurring and determine whether anything else was going on,” Doyle testified.
Early met with Dennis Smith Sr., Doyle said, and when he reported back to her, she said her concerns were calmed.
Still, Doyle testified that she had Julie Roe Lach, a former NCAA vice president of enforcement, meet with Gottfried and his staff to explain NCAA rules.
After Dennis Smith, Jr., enrolled at N.C. State, Doyle became concerned about Shawn Farmer’s involvement with Smith Jr.
Doyle described Farmer as a close friend and trainer of Smith Jr.’s. She said her staff “took steps to educate Farmer so that he understood his role with regard to NCAA rules and Dennis Smith.”
Doyle said she did so because “generally speaking, if there’s someone around our program who is closely associated with a student-athlete, we want to make sure that we’re minimizing our risks with regard to violations of NCAA rules. So, we want to make sure we’re educating those people thoroughly.”
Doyle is scheduled to resume her testimony on Wednesday under cross-examination from defense attorneys representing Gatto, Code and Dawkins.