USC placed men’s basketball associate head coach Tony Bland on administrative leave following his arrest on Monday.
Bland was arrested along with three fellow NCAA assistant basketball coaches and six others as part of a corruption ring, according to federal papers that became public Tuesday. The ring allegedly involved bribes used to connect top college basketball players with financial advisers. He was released after appearing in court on a $100,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in the U.S. District Court in New York on Oct. 10.
Bland was put on administrative leave on Tuesday after the athletic department was “surprised to learn” of both the investigation and the arrest. The University has since hired former FBI director Louis Freeh to spearhead an internal investigation, and reached out to both the NCAA and the FBI to pledge the school’s “full cooperation” in the future.
“We were shocked to learn this morning through news reports about the FBI investigation and arrests related to NCAA basketball programs, including the arrest of USC assistant coach Tony Bland,” USC athletic director Lynn Swann said in a statement. “USC Athletics maintains the highest standards in athletic compliance across all of our programs and does not tolerate misconduct in any way. We will cooperate fully with the investigation and will assist authorities as needed, and if these allegations are true, we will take the needed action.”
The FBI also charged Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State, Chuck Person of Auburn and Emanuel “Book” Richardson of Arizona. Besides the four coaches involved, the case charged financial advisers, sports agents and Jim Gatto, the Adidas director of global basketball marketing.
The bureau held a press conference on Tuesday to address the charges, led by Joon Kim, the acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Kim described the situation as the “dark underbelly” of college athletes, describing an environment with “managers and financial advisers circling blue chip prospects like coyotes.”
According to an affidavit released by federal prosecutors, investigators have been involved with the case since 2015. At least part of the evidence in the case was provided by undercover FBI agents who posed as advisers to gain access to the bribery ring.
This document identifies two corruption scandals: one that used bribes to coerce coaches into pushing their players toward certain financial advisers, and one that paid high school athletes in cash to sign with specific universities.
Bland was only charged in relation to the first. In July, he had a secret meeting in a Las Vegas hotel room with sports agent Christian Dawkins, who was also charged in the case. The pair discussed the signings of two unidentified USC players — a recent signee and a rising sophomore.
In the meeting, which was secretly recorded, Bland promised to “mold the players and put them in the lap” of Dawkins, according to the documents provided. Bland is also charged with overseeing the exchange of envelopes filled with $9,000 in cash to two families of USC basketball players as part of the scandal.
This is Bland’s fifth season with the Trojans, and his biography on the USC basketball website credits him as one of the keys to recruiting players in the last few years of the program’s success.
Bland has served as the associate head coach since 2014 after spending one year as an assistant coach. Prior to his tenure at USC, Bland worked as an assistant coach at his alma mater, San Diego State University.
Both the University and the Pac-12 conference stated their concern over the announcement, which allegedly came as a surprise to both parties. The Pac-12 was involved in two cases, with assistant coaches from both Arizona and USC being part of the scandal.
“Protection of our student-athletes, and of the integrity of competition, is the Conference’s top priority,” Pac-12 conference commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement. “We are still learning the facts of this matter, but these allegations, if true, are profoundly upsetting to me. They strike at the heart of the integrity of our programs, and of the game that so many people love and play the right way.