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Mark Gottfried linked to illegal payments to Dennis Smith Jr., per ESPN report

NCAA Basketball: North Carolina State at Clemson Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

According to a new report from ESPN, Mark Gottfried was directly involved in getting cash into the hands of Dennis Smith Jr.’s family during the recruitment of the star point guard. Gottfried is the first head coach to be so implicated in the ongoing federal college basketball corruption case.

Here’s the meat of it, from the ESPN piece:

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.

Gottfried’s attorney called the account false, noting that there had been no mention of such an exchange in testimony from T.J. Gassnola, who mentioned only that he’d dealt with Early to funnel money to the Smith family.

So ... yeah. Obviously none of this is good, and the NCAA almost certainly will become involved here at some point. But they will have to uncover concrete proof of Gottfried’s involvement while at NC State, and that will be difficult, even if the Gottman was whippin’ wads of cash onto the Smith family’s driveway like the Santa Claus of newspaper delivery guys.

The FBI wiretaps got receipts on a number of parties involved in the scandal, Will Wade notably among them, but as far as I know there’s no similarly smoking gun regarding Gottfried. Which isn’t to say that there will not be NCAA penalties ahead for NC State. Stay tuned, I guess.