Saturday, October 31, 2020

Ex-USC Basketball Coach Tony Bland to Be Sentenced in NCAA Bribery Scandal

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Former USC Trojans assistant basketball coach Tony Bland was sentenced to two years of probation and 100 hours of community service Wednesday as part of an FBI investigation into corruption in college athletics.

Matt Norlander of CBS Sports reported the update. Bland pleaded guilty in January to a felony count of conspiracy to commit bribery.

The Associated Press reported prosecutors in New York were seeking a prison sentence of up to a year for Bland, who admitted to accepting a $4,100 bribe to steer players to “an inexperienced and under-qualified athlete-adviser.” Defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman had argued his client shouldn’t receive any jail time as the “least culpable” of the four ex-coaches charged in the case.

On Monday, Nathan Fenno of the Los Angeles Times obtained a victim impact statement sent to U.S. District Court Judge Edgardo Ramos in May from USC vice president for professionalism and ethics Michael Blanton.

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“The actions of Mr. Bland and his co-conspirators have significantly damaged the reputation of USC as an institution, the USC athletic department and its men’s basketball program,” he wrote. “Further, their actions have prompted an NCAA investigation that may result in penalties. Lastly, USC was forced to expend significant amounts of money to investigate Mr. Bland’s conduct and to cooperate with the government as it has prosecuted this case.”

Bland was fired by the university in January 2018 after being one of 10 individuals arrested in September 2017 in connection with the FBI’s investigation into the “dark underbelly of college basketball.”

“All of those charged today contributed to a pay-to-play culture that has no business in college basketball,” FBI New York division assistant director Bill Sweeney told reporters at the press conference announcing the arrests.

Book Richardson (Arizona Wildcats), Lamont Evans (Oklahoma State Cowboys) and Chuck Person (Auburn Tigers) were the other assistants arrested and charged. They will be sentenced at later dates.

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“I respectfully ask that the Court simply recognize this is not a victimless crime,” Blanton wrote in his letter to Ramos, per Fenno. “USC, its student-athletes, and college athletics as a whole have suffered greatly because of what Mr. Bland and his co-conspirators did.”

Bland joined the USC coaching staff in 2014 after four seasons as an assistant for the San Diego State Aztecs.

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