Former USC assistant Tony Bland pleads guilty in FBI’s college basketball corruption case

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Former USC assistant coach Tony Bland has pleaded guilty for his involvement in the FBI’s college basketball corruption case.

Bland pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery as he was originally facing four charges. One of four college assistants charged in the case, Bland is the first of the quartet to reach any sort of plea. In Manhattan federal court on Wednesday, Bland admitted that he accepted $4,100 in cash to steer players with USC ties to business advisors and agents.

“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 said to U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos.

Federal prosecutors originally claimed that Bland took a $13,000 bribe in July 2017 from former runner Christian Dawkins and financial advisor Munish Sood. It was alleged by prosecutors that Bland helped broker payments to associates of players with USC ties — believed to be current NBA guard De’Anthony Melton and Taeshon Cherry, an Arizona State freshman who was previously verbally committed to the Trojans while in high school.

Bland was originally charged in Sept. 2017 as he was also facing charges of honest services wire fraud, mail fraud conspiracy and violation of the Travel Act. While Bland’s case wasn’t supposed to go to trial until April, he might have felt compelled to plead guilty following the verdict against Adidas employees James Gatto and Merl Code along with Dawkins. Those three men were all found guilty of felony charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Sentencing for that trial is scheduled for March 5.

By pleading guilty right now, Bland is avoiding three of the charges he was facing while he’ll also potentially significant jail time. In the plea deal, Bland pledged not to appeal any sentence of six months of less in prison.

Now that Bland has taken himself out of this trial, it’ll be interesting to see if the other assistant coaches look to follow with a similar plea deal. Arizona assistant Emanuel “Book” Richardson and Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans are apart of the same trial as Bland while former Auburn assistant Chuck Person begins a separate trial in February.