USC men’s basketball assistant coach Tony Bland was arrested by federal agents Tuesday morning for allegedly accepting thousands of dollars in bribes and charged with fraud and corruption.
BREAKING NEWS / NBC: The FBI has arrested several NCAA asst. basketball coaches in a corruption scheme. Presser @ 12n with U.S. Attorney— Tom Winter (@Tom_Winter) September 26, 2017
Bland was allegedly part of a ring of NCAA basketball personnel and others that accepted large sums of money to steer NBA-bound college athletes to specific financial advisers and sports agents according to investigators.
Including Bland, the NCAA personnel arrested under the same charges were Emanuel Richardson of the University of Arizona, Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State University and Chuck Person of Auburn University. Six Adidas employees were also arrested—their names weren’t made available but they are managers, financial advisers and the director of global sports marketing of the company.
According to the LA Times, prosecutors allege Bland met with sports agent Christian Dawkins and an undercover FBI agent in a Las Vegas Hotel on July 29. In this meeting, Bland took a $13,000 bribe in exchange of assurance that any “any university player under his control” would sign with Dawkins.
Tony Bland was entering his fifth season as associate head coach for USC men’s basketball and was responsible for the USC’s excellent recruiting class this past season.
The full 59-page complaint against the coaches in the probe acquired by the L.A. Times can be found here.
One particularly concerning passage is outlined here from the same LA Times Story:
“During one conversation prosecutors said was recorded by law enforcement, Bland called the opportunity to steer USC players to certain agents a “gold mine.”
The FBI arrested Bland in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday morning, according to an agency spokeswoman. Bland appeared in federal court in Tampa following the arrest and was released on a $100,000 personal surety bond.
Prosecutors allege Bland met with Christian Dawkins, a former sports agent trying to start his own firm, and an undercover FBI agent on July 29 in a Las Vegas hotel room. Bland said any university players who he controlled would be “coming to” Dawkins, according to prosecutors, and the coach added he had “heavy influence” over his school’s players choosing agents and advisors.
They also discussed the need to “take care of” two USC players referred to in the complaint as “Player-8” and “Player-9.” The players were identified as an incoming freshman and a rising sophomore.
In the room, prosecutors said, Dawkins took an envelope containing $13,000 and said he would give it to Bland. The two men left the room together.
“For these men, bribing coaches was a business investment,” Kim said.
Prosecutors also charged Bland with facilitating payments of $9,000 to families of two USC basketball players, using cash-filled envelopes. That would be a serious violation of NCAA rules.
During a meeting on USC’s campus Aug. 31 that prosecutors said was recorded by an undercover FBI agent, Bland told Dawkins, the agent and Munish Sood, the chief executive of an investment advisory firm, that if they continued to fund the families of USC players and recruits, the coach would ensure the players would use Dawkins as an agent.
“I definitely can get the players,” Bland told the others at the meeting. “And I can definitely mold the players and put them in the lap of you guys.””
"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 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, will take the needed actions."
USC VP for Athletic Compliance Mike Blanton also issued a statement:
"This morning we were surprised to learn of the FBI investigation and arrest of USC Basketball assistant coach Tony Bland. After learning of these allegations Bland was placed on immediate administrative leave.
"USC places the highest priority on athletic compliance and is taking this situation very seriously. Accordingly, we have hired former FBI director Louis J. Freeh, and his firm, Freeh Group International Solutions, to work with us in conducting an internal investigation into this matter so that we can take action quickly and appropriately.
"This morning, we reached out proactively to both the NCAA and the FBI to pledge our full cooperation and to learn more details. Everyone associated with the program will cooperate fully with these investigations and will assist authorities as needed."
Former FBI director Louis J. Freeh as you may recall was brought in by Penn State to do an internal investigation after the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Freeh also worked with USC back in 2010 during the Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo.