Ex-Wolfpack coach Gottfried sues NC State for buyout money

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 3, 2020

By Aaron Beard

AP Basketball Writer

RALEIGH — Former North Carolina State men’s basketball coach Mark Gottfried is suing the school for buyout money he says has been improperly withheld.

Attorneys for Gottfried — now Cal State Northridge’s head coach — filed the lawsuit in a North Carolina federal court Monday, saying N.C. State violated a March 2017 termination agreement. N.C. State was due to pay Gottfried remaining salary in monthly installments through the April 2020 end of his contract, according to a copy of the agreement filed with the lawsuit.

But the complaint states the school hasn’t paid since August 2018.

The NCAA has since charged the school with four violations tied to the recruitment of former Wolfpack one-and-done star Dennis Smith Jr., which grew out of a federal corruption investigation into college basketball. Gottfried is charged individually under the provision of head-coach responsibility for violations within his program, though his attorneys have questioned the fairness of that process.

Elliot Sol Abrams, one of Gottfried’s attorneys, didn’t immediately return a call from The Associated Press seeking comment Wednesday. N.C. State athletics spokesman Fred Demarest said the school doesn’t comment on pending litigation.

The school announced in February 2017 that Gottfried wouldn’t return for a seventh year but would coach the rest of the season. The March 2017 agreement described his termination as “without cause” and required Gottfried to pursue jobs that would potentially lower school payments.

After making payments for more than a year, the school in May 2018 — eight months after the federal probe became public — sent Gottfried a “Notice of Intent to Discharge for Cause,” according to the complaint. That notice said Gottfried had “induced” the school to enter payment arrangements in the termination agreement, which the complaint states was “conceived, drafted, reviewed and approved” by N.C. State.

By that September, the school had notified Gottfried that “no additional payments are owed,” according to the complaint seeking unspecified financial amounts.

N.C. State’s NCAA case has been accepted into the Independent Accountability Resolution Process, which is designed to handle complex cases and was a product of proposals from the commission led by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2018 to reform college basketball.