The USC men’s basketball program was placed on two years’ probation Thursday over former associate head coach Tony Bland’s involvement in a national bribery scandal, but the NCAA spared the program potentially severe penalties that could have included a ban on post-season play.
Instead, the university was ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and 1% of the men’s basketball program budget. The NCAA also accepted USC’s self-imposed penalties of reducing basketball scholarships by two during the 2018-19 academic year, reducing official basketball visits over a two-season period and a reduction in recruiting days.
Bland was also placed under a three-year “show-cause order,” which means that any school employing him “must restrict him from any athletically related duties unless it shows cause why the restrictions should not apply.”
Bland pleaded guilty in January 2019 to conspiracy to commit bribery, admitting he received a $4,100 bribe to steer standout Trojan players toward specific business managers and financial advisers. He was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to perform community service.
In its ruling Thursday, the NCAA stated, “The associate head coach demonstrated a recurring lack of judgment that resulted in unethical conduct and representation violations for both himself and USC. Although (Bland’s) behavior may have originated out of friendship with the agent associate, it waded into murky ethical waters and ultimately intersected with the agent associate’s corruption scheme within college basketball.”
The NCAA noted that Bland cooperated in the investigation, and the university itself “displayed exemplary cooperation and self-imposed significant and meaningful penalties in line with the NCAA membership’s penalty guidelines.”
In a statement, USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn said he was “proud” of the university’s handling of the matter.
“Since my arrival at the end of 2019, I have been focused on continuing and enhancing our already-robust compliance program,” Bohn said. “The NCAA’s findings, comments and acceptance of our self-imposed penalties are a reflection of our commitment to accountability, integrity and transparency. … We are thrilled this matter is now behind us, and our focus remains on being the most student-athlete centered program in the country.”
Head coach Andy Enfield added, “This was a comprehensive process, and we are looking forward to moving on. … We remain committed to winning with integrity and dedicated to providing the best possible experience for all of our student-athletes.”
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 contended 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.”
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.
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