January 2, 2019 / 10:17 PM / 7 months ago

Ex-USC assistant Bland pleads guilty in corruption scandal

Former Southern California assistant coach Tony Bland pleaded guilty Wednesday in Manhattan federal court to conspiracy to commit bribery, the latest development in the corruption scandal that rocked college basketball.

FILE PHOTO: Southern California Trojans associate head coach Tony Bland reacts during a NCAA basketball game against the Cal State Northridge Matadors at Galen Center in Los Angeles, California, U.S. on November 23, 2015. REUTERS/Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Bland admitted he accepted $4,100 in cash to steer USC basketball players toward certain financial advisers and business managers.

“On July 29, 2017, I met with others in Las Vegas, Nevada, to discuss my participation in the scheme and received a payment of $4,100,” Bland told U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos, according to eyewitness reports.

Bland, 38, will be sentenced on April 2.

Bland is hopeful of avoiding prison time after reaching a plea deal with prosecutors last month. He agreed not to appeal any prison sentence of six months or less.

Bland was arrested in September 2017 as one of four assistant coaches caught on FBI wiretaps. The other three arrested were former Auburn assistant Chuck Person, former Arizona assistant Emanuel “Book” Richardson and former Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans.

Person, Richardson and Evans all have trials scheduled in the coming months.

Bland asserted he could steer players to advisers and managers in a recording presented in court.

“I definitely can get the players ... And I can definitely mold the players and put them in the lap of you guys,” Bland said.

Bland’s defense attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, said Bland is hopeful of moving forward but understands what transpired “drives a stake into the heart of his career.”

“He came from nothing and he rose to the pinnacle of his profession,” Lichtman said of Bland, who played college basketball for Syracuse and San Diego State before turning to coaching.

USC initially placed Bland on administrative leave before firing him in January 2018.

The corruption scandal led to the firing of Louisville coach Rick Pitino, and court testimony last fall placed schools such as Kansas and North Carolina State under scrutiny.

Former Adidas executive James Gatto, former agent runner Christian Dawkins and former Adidas consultant Merl Code were found guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in October after a trial in New York.

The three men are slated to be sentenced on March 5.

—Field Level Media

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