RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina State finally owns the Top 25 national status that athletics director Debbie Yow has sought during her eight-year tenure.
Yet amid the excitement there’s concern: The men’s basketball program is entangled in the federal investigation into corruption within the sport. That’s left Yow to balance the best overall season in school history with potential trouble ahead for one of the Wolfpack’s highest-profile programs.
“You tell the truth, always,” Yow said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We know what our culture is. My goodness, you’ve heard us talk about ‘ERA: Establish the culture, reinforce the culture, act with integrity when the culture is threatened.’ . If there has been an errant individual who’s acted outside of the stated and expected culture, so be it. We’ll deal with it.”
Federal prosecutors last fall charged 10 men — including assistant coaches at Arizona, Auburn, USC and Oklahoma State and a top Adidas executive — in the fraud and bribery scandal, though prosecutors later withdrew a criminal complaint against one defendant.
The case involves hundreds of thousands of dollars in alleged bribes and kickbacks designed to influence recruits on choosing a school, agent or apparel company. It has touched schools such as Kansas, Louisville , Miami and Maryland , among others.
In N.C. State’s case, it received a grand jury subpoena in January for records tied to former one-and-done guard Dennis Smith Jr., former head coach Mark Gottfried and ex-assistant Orlando Early. And in April, a rewritten federal indictment alleged the former Adidas representative arranged $40,000 for the parent of an athlete committed to the school — and that an unnamed Wolfpack coach was involved in delivering the money.
The staff of current coach Kevin Keatts, who replaced Gottfried in March 2017, is not linked to the case. The school has said it is cooperating with investigators.
Asked if the case puts a damper on the overall season, Yow said: “I will always be disappointed if there’s an issue. Always. But that takes us back to who we really are and what our culture is. You have to go back to that.”
The rest of the news was better.
The Wolfpack finished 15th in the Directors’ Cup rankings of overall college programs, up from 89th when Yow arrived in summer 2010. The previous high was 27th in 2014-15.
“I think it gives us a different level of confidence in our ability to advance the program across the board,” Yow said, adding: “The next step is going to be consistency. It’s one thing to do it once, it’s another thing to make it a habit.”
The school had all-time highs of 12 teams with Top 25 rankings finishes and 12 individual national champions. The highest-profile programs did well, with football earning its second nine-win season in 15 years and reaching a five-year deal to keep Dave Doeren after he talked with Tennessee about its opening.
Keatts led men’s basketball to wins against Arizona, Duke and North Carolina before returning to the NCAA Tournament after a two-year absence. Wes Moore led women’s basketball to its first NCAA Sweet 16 since 2007, while baseball was an NCAA regional host under Elliott Avent.
The school also said athletes posted a cumulative GPA of better than a 3.0 for the first time.
N.C. State is spending $6.6 million to create broadcast and production space at the football stadium for the 2019 arrival of the Atlantic Coast Conference’s TV channel, a requirement for all schools. A $2.5 million update to football’s sports medicine facility is planned, though the $15 million Case Commons project to build a centrally located dorm to house the basketball teams is shelved amid rising steel costs.
The 67-year-old Yow is entering the final year of a contract that ends next July. She’s sticking to that timeline, including when pressed on whether uncertainty from the FBI investigation could change her plans.
“I look at it and say I need for that to be settled before I retire,” she said. “I need to have closure on that for this place. Now, if I didn’t, the head of compliance is still here. The chancellor is still here. So it isn’t like I have to be here. It’s just a matter of personal comfort. I want things settled.”