Dec 22nd, 2021 |
82: The NC State Decision: Is the IARP Auditioning for Power 5 Business?
On December 20th, the NCAA’s Independent Accountability Resolution Process (IARP) hearing panel issued its decision in the NC State infractions and enforcement (I&E) case. The I&E case arose from the 2018 criminal prosecutions in the Southern District of New York. The federal government charged financial advisors, athlete agents, and assistant basketball coaches under wire fraud statutes for schemes to either (1) pay assistant coaches to steer star players to certain agents/advisors; or (2) pay athletes or their families to attend a particular Adidas-sponsored university. NC State—an Adidas-sponsored school— was implicated in the criminal cases by a cooperating witness with Adidas connections. The allegations against NC State center on a $40,000 payment from the shadowy cooperating witness allegedly earmarked for NC State basketball recruit Dennis Smith Jr.—intended to secure Smith Jr’s commitment to attend NC State. The IARP panel found former NC State assistant basketball coach Orlando Early guilty of “arranging” the $40,000.00 payment. Early did not cooperate in the investigation. No NC State interest involved in the alleged transaction(s) were prosecuted or called to testify at the criminal case. However, the NCAA I&E staff and IARP advocates/hearing panelists relied principally on testimony from the cooperating witness to make their case against NC State. They also relied on circumstantial evidence—a timeline of phone calls and text messages—and Early’s refusal to cooperate in the NCAA investigation as substantive proof of guilt. The hearing panel then imputed Early’s guilt to NC State. Thus, in effect, NC State was guilty of “arranging” a payment of $40,000 to a high school athlete. Despite the severity of the offense (by NCAA logic and values), NC State received "kiss on the cheek" penalties: (1) one year probation, (2) the loss of one scholarship for 2022-2023, (3) nominal recruiting restrictions, and (4) financial penalties of $5,000.00 and 0.05 percent of the NC State basketball budget. Former head coach Mark Gottfried received a one-year “show cause” order. Orlando Early received a six-year “show cause.” Sports commentators have been perplexed by nominal penalties in the Auburn (Committee on Infractions) and NC State (IARP) decisions. However, when viewed in the context of the realignment of NCAA regulatory authorities under the new constitution, both decisions make perfect sense. Indeed, with the Power 5 now in the driver’s seat on the future of the entire infractions and enforcement apparatus, the NCAA national office I&E staff and the IARP mini bureaucracy are under existential assault. The new constitution’s transfer of I&E authorities to the Divisions includes guiding principles at odds with the NCAA’s decades-long “my way or the highway” approach to I&E. The I&E national office staff and the IARP may be motivated less by compassion and fairness than self-preservation. In essence, both are now auditioning for the Power 5 to keep their jobs.