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ACC Roundup - The Hokies Beat The ‘Canes, And Mark Gottfried Now Stands Accused In The Adidas Scandal

No charges but the implications could still be severe.

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North Carolina State v Duke
DURHAM, NC - JANUARY 23: Head coach Mark Gottfried talks to Dennis Smith Jr. #4 of the North Carolina State Wolfpack during their win against the Duke Blue Devils at Cameron Indoor Stadium on January 23, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. North Carolina State won 84-82.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

In Friday’s only ACC game, Virginia Tech predictably cruised by Miami 84-70.

Justin Robinson, who’s been out with a foot injury, got a ceremonial start but didn't score or have any statistical impact at all. It was a really nice thing to do though. We don't know if Miami cooperated or not, but Kerry Blackshear tipped the ball out of bounds and Buzz Williams subbed Robinson out, giving him a moment he clearly deserved. It reinforces the sense that Williams is a decent man.

The four other starters finished in double figures and Isaiah Wilkins had 11 off the bench.

Chris Lykes and Ebuka Izundu had 16 each to pace Miami.

Virginia Tech finishes the regular season at 22-7 and 11-6 in the ACC and will be in the NCAA field. Miami ends at 13-16 and 5-12 and their season ends with their next loss.

On Saturday, the big finale, aside from Duke-UNC, sees Florida State at Wake Forest, Syracuse at Clemson, Notre Dame at Pitt, NC State off to Boston for a now critical game and Louisville at Virginia which could be fun but probably won’t.

We like FSU, the Irish, NC State and Virginia.

In our judgement, Virginia has waited all season to get back to NCAA play to exorcise the UMBC demons. Virginia has as powerful a motivation as anyone in the country. They’re very good too. It’s a dangerous combination and the closer they get the more focused they’re going to be.

In Raleigh, NC State, the Carolina Hurricanes and the Centennial Authority are proposing renovations to the PNC Arena - which could add up to $200 million. NC State can’t afford that and if the Hurricanes balk yet demand the upgrades, as we’ve seen so often with pro sports teams around the country, who knows what they’ll do? They have a new owner and there are a lot of unknowns right now.

It’s a big price tag and a big story but it got swamped by the news that former State coach Mark Gottfried has been directly implicated in the Adidas scandal.

According to ESPN, Gottfried allegedly gave former assistant coach Orlando Early two envelopes filled with cash for Dennis Smith and his family.

The best part of this story is Gottfried complaining that the money came out of his own pocket and saying he was going to get Adidas to take care of it.

There is an important caveat to remember here and that’s the word believes:

“According to a disclosure from federal prosecutors, former NC State assistant Orlando Early’s attorney said his client disclosed that Gottfried on two occasions gave him envelopes -- containing what Early believed was cash -- to deliver to star guard Dennis Smith Jr.’s trainer to ensure he signed with the Wolfpack in 2015.”

It doesn’t matter now legally and it may never matter legally, but on the stand, any attorney would ask Early if he saw cash or just believed it was cash. Maybe it was newspaper clippings. You don’t really know, do you Mr. Early?

And he’d have to say no.

It might not convince a jury, but there’s no proof that there was cash in the envelopes.

The court of public opinion is a different matter.

NC State said it has heard nothing about this and Gottfried, now at Cal State Northridge, denied it vigorously via his attorney Scott Tompsett, who sent a statement over to ESPN:

“The statement being reported on is false and conflicts with the sworn testimony of the government’s lead witness in the trial last fall. Specifically, at trial, T.J. Gassnola testified, under penalty of perjury, that he did not discuss the payment to Dennis Smith with anyone at N.C. State other than one assistant coach. Thus, the statement being reported on as it refers to Mr. Gottfried is not corroborated by a single shred of evidence and it conflicts with the sworn testimony of the government’s lead witness at the trial last fall.”

We haven't seen everything here obviously, but what we understand its that Gottfried complained about using his own money and said he would ask Adidas for help. Did he mention Gassnola? Couldn’t he have talked to someone else? It’s not hard to imagine him talking to, say, Christian Dawkins and Dawkins passing the message on. Just because he may not have spoken to Gassnola doesn’t mean that this is all untrue.

As we said there’s a lot we don’t know here. Gottfried and NC State parted ways after a season when his team’s chemistry basically fell apart for no apparent reason.

We do know that Smith did get money. What we don’t know, and what has not yet been established, is if Gottfried specifically knew that he got money or made arrangements for him to get it.

And let’s be clear about something else. NCAA logic and normal logic are not the same.

If you’re really good at something and people want to give you money for it, there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. If Smith had been an outstanding programmer or had unusual musical abilities, we’d all praise his talents and no one would object to his being rewarded for them.

The NCAA currently makes that impossible.

There are a lot of arguments about this and we find ourselves agreeing with a lot of them, sometimes simultaneously even when they conflict. We’re all trying to figure it out and almost no one thinks that we’re going back to the old model. There’s just too much money in the game and too much has changed. No one is going back.

However, when he signed, Smith agreed to abide by the current rules. He could have played in the G-League or gone abroad and made a decent living for a year, certainly more than State and Adidas apparently gave him.

He chose this path and chose to do it dishonorably. In his defense, at least you can say that he was a teenager and not a fully grown man. We should make allowances for youth.

We don’t care about Gottfried and Early. They agreed to play by the rules too and at least Early didn’t and you can think whatever you want about his boss.

What we particularly dislike here is that all three of them put the group at risk. All of the accomplishments of that group, minimal though they are, may be wiped off the books and if Smith’s former teammates react like Chris Webber’s former teammates reacted to his post Fab Five destruction of the Michigan program, well, who could blame them?

The coaches and the star player appear to have screwed the rest of the team in more ways than one.

Needless to say, State fans will stand as one and point to Chapel Hill and say, dammit, they got away with far worse. And they’ll be right of course. State loses to Carolina in everything meaningful and has for a long time. Now they’re even losing in scandal.

A lot of the reason North Carolina hammered NC State for two decades was because UNC was willing to exploit athletes and send them on their way, keeping the money they earned the university and giving them nothing in return except four relatively fun years on campus with all that that entails other than a legitimate diploma.

So while on an individual basis we respect Luke Maye, who has made himself into a legitimately excellent college basketball player by his own hard work and dedication, when a UNC player wins an academic award after what happened over there, it’s hard not to wonder...are they doing it again? Is there a new angle? Is this on the level?

We’d like to reiterate our respect for Maye. We believe that he is one of the hardest working kids to come through the ACC in a long time and furthermore we believe that that work ethic translates to the classroom. No one doubts that kid works his ass off.

It’s just that you can’t know if it’s honestly legitimate. If UNC had held itself accountable, as NC State did after the much less severe scandals of the Valvano era, and not tried to weasel out of every aspect of that sordid tsunami of scandal, we could welcome a rehabilitated UNC back. After all, UNC redeemed itself after the scandals during the Frank McGuire era and was willing to pay a price to regain its reputation and in fact did.

They chose a very different path this time though and so academic accomplishments, even by a guy as impressive as Maye, will now be suspect.

Whatever comes out of the mess in Raleigh, we hope that NC State holds itself accountable in a way that UNC has not done. The contrast would be impressive, to State’s credit, and would go a long way towards restoring its honor.

And as a bonus, State would finally beat UNC in something that matters.

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