NCAA hits USC basketball with 2 years' probation, fine

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FILE - Former assistant basketball coach for the University of Southern California Tony Bland, left, and his attorney Jeffrey Lichtman, leave federal court in New York, in this Wednesday, June 5, 2019, file photo. The NCAA hit Southern Californias men's basketball program with two years probation and a $5,000 fine as the result of a former assistant who violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when he accepted a bribe to steer players to a business management company. The Division I Committee on Infractions on Thursday, April 15, 2021, announced the penalties, which include a 1% loss of the schools basketball budget. The probation runs until April 14, 2023. Tony Bland, the former associate head under coach Andy Enfield, wasn't mentioned by name in the NCAA report. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, FIle)

LOS ANGELES – The NCAA hit Southern California’s men's basketball program with two years’ probation on Thursday because a former assistant coach violated NCAA ethics rules when he accepted a bribe to steer players to a business management company.

The Division I Committee on Infractions announced the penalties, which include a $5,000 fine and a 1% loss of the private school’s basketball budget. The probation, which does not include a postseason ban, runs until April 14, 2023.

Tony Bland, the former associate head coach under coach Andy Enfield, wasn't mentioned by name in the NCAA report. He was arrested by FBI agents in September 2017. USC fired Bland four months later. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery in January 2019 and cooperated with the NCAA's investigation.

As part of his plea deal with federal prosecutors, Bland acknowledged accepting a $4,100 bribe during a July 2017 meeting with financial advisers and business managers in exchange for directing players to retain their services when they entered the pro ranks. He received two years’ probation.

USC is the fourth school involved in the federal investigation of conspiracy and bribery in college basketball to be punished by the NCAA.

South Carolina is on two years’ probation; Oklahoma State is on three years’ probation and banned from participating in the postseason for one season; and Alabama was put on three years’ probation.

Other schools that have acknowledged receiving a notice of allegations from the NCAA are Arizona, which fired coach Sean Miller on April 7, Kansas, Louisville, North Carolina State, and TCU.

In Bland's case, government recordings from the meetings revealed he had touted his ability to connect the company with current or prospective players, noting he had heavy influence over their decisions.