LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) – A former USC men’s basketball assistant coach has pleaded guilty for his role in a pay-for-play scandal in which schools would funnel money through shoe companies to a player in exchange for their commitment.
Tony Bland, 38, pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. district court in New York to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, admitting that he received bribes to steer certain players toward specific business managers and financial advisers.
He faces a maximum sentence of up to one year in prison, but will likely be sentenced to probation, his attorneys said. Sentencing was set for April 2.
In September of 2017, Bland was one of 10 people arrested following an FBI sting into the pay-for-play scandal. It also led to the shocking firing of legendary coach Rick Pitino from the University of Louisville.
Bland was placed on administrative leave when the allegations surfaced. He was fired in January 2018.
Federal prosecutors in New York alleged that Bland received a $13,000 bribe in July 2017 from would-be agent Christian Dawkins and financial adviser Munish Sood in exchange for steering USC players to use their services when they became professionals.
“I definitely can get the players,” prosecutors contend that Bland told the advisers. “And I can definitely mold the players and put them in the lap of you guys.”
Former USC guard D’Anthony Melton, who is currently in his rookie year with the Phoenix Suns, was ruled ineligible last season because of the case involving Bland, who was accused by prosecutors of facilitating payments to Melton.
At USC, Bland was the associate head coach, second- in-command to head coach Andy Enfield, who supported Bland in comments immediately following his arrest.
“We all love Tony,” Enfield said. “It’s very difficult on a personal level; it’s very difficult on a program level because we all had great relationships with each other. We’re going to go on and try to prepare for the season. Obviously, we have to get through this part of it, but it is emotional and challenging.”
Enfield claims he found out about the situation at the same time Bland was arrested as part of the sting.
Bland was an assistant coach at San Diego State University from 2009 to 2013 before he left for a similar assistant coaching role at USC.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this report.)