Former University of Southern California basketball assistant Tony Bland was sentenced to two years of probation and 100 hours of community service on Wednesday for his involvement in the NCAA bribery scandal. Bland was the first of four coaches to be charged in the conspiracy.
In January, Bland admitted to accepting $4,100 in illegal funds. Although it is the lowest amount of any of the parties involved, it was previously thought that he accepted upwards of $13,000.
Michael Blanton, USC’s vice president for professionalism and ethics, issued a statement to the judge in the case expressing the impact that Bland’s crime had on the university prior to his sentencing.
“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,” Blanton stated. “I respectfully ask that the Court simply recognize this is not a victimless crime. USC, its student-athletes, and college athletics as a whole have suffered greatly because of what Mr. Bland and his co-conspirators did.”
Prosecutors sought a six to 12-month prison sentence, while his lawyer advocated for probation on the grounds that he was the “least culpable” of those involved. While the amount was the first payment that he ever accepted, the prosecution asserted that there was significant evidence that Bland was likely to continue the behavior.
“I’m excited it’s over, I appreciate Judge Ramos for the outcome and giving me another chance,” Bland said outside of the courthouse. “I’m just looking forward to rebuilding from my mistakes and from this moment on spending the rest of my life trying to prove and help and reverse the stigma that came from this.”
Bland spent the last 5 years coaching at USC after 4 seasons at San Diego State.
Coaches Chuck Person of Auburn University, Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State University, and Emanuel “Book” Richardson of the University of Arizona were the other three individuals convicted. They pled guilty to the same charges and now await sentencing. Richardson will be sentenced Thursday, and Evans on Friday. Person’s date has yet to be set. The money accepted in these cases ranges from $4,100 to $91,500, with Person being responsible for the latter.
One of the major findings of the FBI’s 2017 investigation into the inner workings of NCAA basketball was an ongoing agreement between several college coaches, sports agent Christian Dawkins, and Adidas consultant Merl Code Jr.
The two worked in tandem to provide financial incentives to Division I Adidas-sponsored schools in order to have their top players represented by Dawkins’ LOYD inc, management company once they made the step to the pros. They elected to go to trial and were found guilty on charges of wire fraud and money laundering. The four coaches that were convicted accepted money from the Dawkins and Code Jr. under the instruction of former Adidas executive James Gatto, who was recently sentenced to 9 months himself.
These findings look to be the beginning of a fundamental crackdown in the NCAA. It was announced earlier in the year that federal officials have given the NCAA the go-ahead to launch their own investigation into the matters of pay-for-play schemes. Likely to be involved are established programs such as Arizona, Creighton, Kansas, Louisville, and NC State, among others.