Former USC men’s basketball associate head coach Tony Bland pleaded guilty Wednesday to a federal conspiracy charge stemming from a nationwide college basketball bribery probe.
In a New York courtroom, Bland pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery, admitting he received a $4,100 bribe to steer standout Trojan players toward specific business managers and financial advisers.
Attorneys said Bland, 38, will likely be sentenced to probation, although his plea deal with prosecutors potentially carries up to a year in prison. Sentencing was set for April 2.
Bland was among four college assistant basketball coaches named in an indictment unsealed Sept. 26, 2017, in a fraud and corruption scheme alleging they accepted bribes from either athlete business managers, financial advisers or an athletic apparel company.
Federal prosecutors in New York said Bland accepted at least $13,000 in bribes from a pair of “athlete advisers” between June and September 2017, in exchange for Bland influencing players to hire the advisers when they begin playing in the NBA.
Prosecutors contend that Bland told the advisers, “I definitely can get the players. … And I can definitely mold the players and put them in the lap of you guys.”
At Bland’s direction, the advisers also paid another $9,000 to the families of two USC players, and Bland set up a meeting between the advisers and a relative of a USC player, prosecutors contended. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York did not name the players.
Bland was immediately placed on administrative leave when the allegations surfaced and was fired in January 2018.
Bland was an assistant coach at San Diego State University from 2009 to 2013 before he left for a similar assistant coaching role at USC. Bland, whose duties for the Aztecs included recruiting players, was at SDSU for the most successful basketball seasons in the program’s history.
Bland helped coach the Aztecs to the NCAA Tournament during all four of his years as an assistant, including their first-ever run to the Sweet 16 in the 2011 NCAA Tournament as the team finished the season 34-3.
At USC, Bland was promoted in 2014 to associate head coach — second-in-command to head coach Andy Enfield.
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