Tony Bland. Photo courtesy of USC

Former San Diego State University men’s basketball assistant coach Tony Bland has agreed to a plea bargain in the wide-ranging federal investigation into college basketball bribery and corruption.

Bland’s attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, confirmed the deal to the Los Angeles Times.

Recently, Bland had been serving as USC men’s basketball associate head coach before he was placed on administrative leave and subsequently fired in January after allegations had surfaced.

A person familiar with the arrangement between Bland and prosecutors in U.S. District Court in New York told the Los Angeles Times the former coach will plead guilty to one felony count of federal funds bribery and get a Level 10 sentencing guideline. That level calls for six to 12 months in prison, but Bland is expected to receive probation since he doesn’t have a previous criminal record.

The deal isn’t believed to include a requirement for Bland to cooperate with prosecutors, The Times reported. Further details of the plea bargain weren’t immediately available.

Bland was among four college assistant basketball coaches named in an indictment unsealed Sept. 26, 2017, in a fraud and corruption scheme alleging they accepted bribes from either athlete business managers, financial advisers or an athletic apparel company.

Federal prosecutors in New York said Bland accepted at least $13,000 in bribes from a pair of “athlete advisers” between June and September 2017, in exchange for Bland influencing players to hire the advisers when they begin playing in the NBA.

Prosecutors contend that Bland told the advisers, “I definitely can get the players. … And I can definitely mold the players and put them in the lap of you guys.”

At Bland’s direction, the advisers also paid another $9,000 to the families of two USC players, and Bland set up a meeting between the advisers and a relative of a USC player, prosecutors contend. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York did not name the players.

“The college coaches took cash bribes in exchange for directing players and their families to their bribers,” acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said at the time. “For these men, bribing coaches was a business investment. If and when young players turned pro, that would mean big bucks for them.”

Bland was immediately placed on administrative leave when the allegations surfaced and was fired in January.

Bland’s tenure at SDSU lasted from 2009 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 most successful basketball seasons in the program’s history.

Bland 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.

“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,” his biography on the USC athletics website read.

–City News Service

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