Former San Diego State basketball player and coach Tony Bland, who has been an assistant coach at the University of Southern California since 2013, was one of four college basketball coaches accused by federal prosecutors Tuesday of taking bribes as part of a wide-ranging corruption scheme.
Federal prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in the southern district of New York were set to formally announce the charges at 9 a.m. PDT Tuesday. Bland is one of 10 people charged on federal counts that include wire fraud, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.
According to a partially unsealed criminal complaint, those who will be charged include the four coaches as well as managers, financial advisors and representatives from a “major international sportswear company,” believed to be Adidas.
Among those arrested was Adidas‘ director of global sports marketing James “Jim” Gatto.
The defendants are alleged to have set up a scheme in which star basketball players were paid large sums of money — illegal under NCAA rules — in order for them to attend certain universities. The coaches who were part of the scheme would receive a payment, and the player would be expected to hire the managers and financial advisors upon turning professional.
One such scheme paid a player $150,000 to attend a university sponsored by the sportswear company, according to the criminal complaint.
The assistant coaches and associate head coaches named in the complaint were Bland, Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State, Chuck Person of Auburn and Emanuel “Book Richardson of Arizona
Bland was an assistant coach at SDSU for two years from 2011 to 2013 before he left for a similar assistant coaching role at USC. Bland, whose duties for the Aztecs included recruiting players, was at SDSU for the Aztecs’ most successful basketball seasons in program history. He helped coach the Aztecs to the NCAA Tournament during all four of his years as an assistant, including their first-ever run to the Sweet 16 in the 2011 NCAA Tournament as the team finished the season 34-3.
At USC, Bland was promoted in 2014 to associate head coach — second in command to head coach Andy Enfield — and has helped build the Trojans’ basketball program from a perennial loser into a national power.
One of Bland’s many talents is that of being an elite recruiter and the Trojans have brought in top 20 classes nationally since his arrival,” read his biography on the USC athletics website.
USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann released a statement saying the university was caught off-guard by the development.
“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,” Swann said. “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.”
As a player, Bland transferred to SDSU after two years at Syracuse. In the 2000-2001 season, the Los Angeles-native helped lead the team to a Mountain West Conference tournament championship and the school’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 1985. As a senior in the 2001- 2002 season, Bland was a team co-captain and earned second-team all-conference honors.
— City News Service