NC State submitted its formal response on Monday to the NCAA's lengthy it levied against the basketball program in July. The NOA included four violations connected to former Wolfpack star Dennis Smith Jr., which NC State officials are now disputing.
In its response, NC State openly questioned whether there is sufficient evidence in the case related to Smith Jr., who the NCAA alleges was paid to play at the school. At last year's federal trials, former Adidas consultant T.J. Gassnola testified that he delivered $40,000 to former assistant coach Orlando Early, which was to be given to Smith's father as a sweetener to get him to play for former coach Mark Gottfried. NC State, however, claims Smith Jr. was uninvolved in that process and thus should be exonerated.
"N.C. State strenuously disputes and is contesting the NCAA's most serious Level I allegation based on a lack of evidence of a recruiting violation, combined with the improper use of information from a criminal trial," NC State said in a statement on Monday. "As a result, we assert that this infractions case should be viewed as, at most, a potential Level II case."
According to a report from ESPN, NC State's formal response took the assertion one step further, claiming Smith Jr.'s lack of involvement, combined with evidence at hand, should be enough for the NCAA to strongly consider lessening its charges.
"Specifically, the evidence in the record demonstrates that Smith Jr. did not receive any money and that he was unaware of any money being provided to Farmer and/or to his family by Adidas, Gassnola or Early," the response said.
The NCAA in its NOA alleges that Smith Jr., as a byproduct of allegedly being paid to play, was ineligible while playing in 32 games for NC State during the 2016-17 season. In addition to the alleged payment, the NCAA also found Smith Jr. was provided an impermissible benefit via a parking pass to an NC State football game, which by NCAA's letter of the law is a Level II violation.
Former assistant coach Orlando Early is also accused of providing 44 complimentary tickets to Smith Jr's father for NC State men's basketball games, as well as more than 100 tickets to family and friends. Early was the top assistant for Gottfried, now the coach at CS Northridge, for six seasons at NC State. Early has refused to cooperate with the NCAA in the case.
The NCAA will have 60 days to respond to NC State's rebuttal. Upon its response, a meeting with the Committee on Infractions will be scheduled, with a final NCAA ruling to follow shortly thereafter.