NCAA Gives USC Probation and a Fine In Bribery Scandal
An NCAA discipline committee on Thursday put the University of Southern California men’s basketball program on two-year probation and fined it $ 5,000, plus 1% of the program’s budget, for the actions of a former associate head coach who accepted a bribe from a sports management. business for players with NBA potential.
Tony Bland, the former associate head coach, was fired from the university in January 2018 and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe in a United States district court in 2019, acknowledging that he had accepted a bribe of $ 4,100 from a sports agent in exchange for the promise to lead the players. to a Las Vegas management company. The NCAA committee decision prevents Bland from working in varsity athletics for three years without NCAA approval, which is the harshest punishment a coach can receive.
“The associate head coach has exhibited a recurring lack of judgment which has resulted in violations of unethical conduct and representation for himself and USC,” read the 24 decision. pages published by the NCAA committee. “While his behavior may have stemmed from a friendship with the associate agent, he waded through troubled ethical waters and ultimately overlapped with the associate agent’s plan to bribe the associate in college basketball.”
Bland, who joined the Trojans program under coach Andy Enfield in 2013, admitted to accepting the bribe during a July 2017 meeting with officials from a sports management agency in Las Vegas. Tapes of the meeting used as evidence in the case showed Bland bragging about being able to convince student-athletes to become clients of the company. At a meeting near the Trojans basketball arena a month later, Bland reiterated that he could “definitely get the players and put them on your knees,” according to government records of the meeting.
He was arrested in September 2017 along with coaches from several sports programs implicated in the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigation.
“I knew my conduct was bad,” Bland said during his guilty plea in January 2019. He was sentenced to two years probation and 100 hours of community service.
Sports management executives Christian Dawkins, an aspiring agent, and former Adidas employee Merl Code Jr. were convicted of conspiracy to bribe in 2019 in connection with payments carried out to Bland and other coaches in an attempt to convince the players to sign. with their nascent agency. In a separate trial in 2018, they were convicted, along with another former Adidas employee, James Gatto, of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud by channeling money to the families of the college basketball rookies.
More than a dozen programs were involved in the investigation, with some cases still unresolved. Alabama and South Carolina received sentences similar to those of USC. Oklahoma State was given a one-year playoff ban in addition to fines and lost scholarships in June 2020; the program appealed the decision and competed in the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
USC probation lasts until April 14, 2023, and in addition to the $ 5,000 fine, the school must also pay 1% of the basketball program budget. University officials imposed sanctions on themselves, limiting program scholarships, official visits and recruiting days during the 2019 academic year.
Bland operated on his own without the knowledge of any other college or athletic personnel, the NCAA committee noted, adding that college officials and Bland had cooperated with the sanctions.
“We are delighted that this matter is now behind us,” said Mike Bohn, the university’s athletic director, in a statement on Thursday, “and our goal remains to be the most student and athlete-centric program at the country.”
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