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USC Fires Assistant Tony Bland Following Pay-For-Play Scandal

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA/AP) — The University of Southern California has fired associate head coach Tony Bland in the wake of his arrest in the widespread college basketball bribery and corruption case in which he is accused of receiving money in exchange for steering players towards certain agents and advisers.

Tony Bland
USC assistant coach Tony Bland yells out instructions during an NCAA basketball game between the Stanford Cardinal and the USC Trojans on Jan. 5, 2017, at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

A school spokesman confirmed Bland's firing on Thursday, but offered no other details. He had been on administrative leave since his arrest in September. He was on USC's staff for 4 ½ years.

Bland was one of 10 people arrested in the case in September of 2017. Three other assistants — Chuck Person of Auburn, Book Richardson of Arizona and Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State — were also fired as part of the FBI probe, which revealed a pay-for-play scandal where schools would funnel money through shoe companies to a player in exchange for their commitment.

The NCAA-wide scandal also led to the shocking firing of legendary coach Rick Pitino from the University of Louisville.

Bland pleaded not guilty in November to four charges relating to bribery and wire fraud.

Federal prosecutors in New York alleged that Bland received a $13,000 bribe in July 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."

USC guard D'Anthony Melton was ruled ineligible this season because of the case involving Bland, who was accused by prosecutors of facilitating payments to Melton.

Melton, who wasn't named in the complaint but identified by his attorney, cooperated by giving USC cellphone records and bank statements. His attorney, Vicki Podberesky, has maintained throughout the investigation that Melton knew nothing about any violations.

However, while USC investigated David Elliott, a Melton family friend, other NCAA violations surfaced, and the school announced earlier this month that Melton wouldn't play this season.

USC coach Andy Enfield has been a staunch defender of Melton, insisting the sophomore did nothing wrong.

Enfield also supported Bland in comments last fall before the season began.

"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 said he found out about the situation at the same time Bland was arrested as part of the sting.

(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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