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USC Men's Basketball Placed On 2 Years Probation, Fined For Former Coach Tony Bland's Part In College Admission Scandal

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) — The NCAA is placing USC's men's basketball team on two years of probation and fining the university $5,000 plus 1% of the men's basketball program budget for a former associate head coach's part in the college admissions scandal.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 05: USC assistant coach Tony Bland yells out instructions during an NCAA basketball game between the Stanford Cardinal and the USC Trojans on January 5, 2017, at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

A Division I Committee on Infractions determined that former associate basketball coach Tony Bland violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when he accepted a $4,100 bribe to influence student-athlete admissions. USC had already decided on its own to impose some disciplinary actions in the case, including reducing men's basketball scholarships, the team's officials visits, and recruiting days during the 2018-19 school year, according to the NCAA.

The NCAA also requires a three-year show-cause order for Bland, requiring any NCAA member school employing him during that time to restrict him from any athletics-related duties unless it shows cause why the restrictions should not apply.

Several of the country's most high-profile universities, including USC and UCLA, along with some of the nation's CEOs, C-suite executives, and Hollywood actors, were ensnared in the FBI's "Operation Varsity Blues" investigation that broke in 2017. The FBI arrested dozens of wealthy parents, who they say paid millions in "donations" to William Singer of Newport Beach to arrange the taking of standardized tests, help create fake student-athlete profiles and outright bribe college officials to get their children into prestigious universities.

Bland, who was fired from USC in 2018, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery in January of 2019. The NCAA notes that in his plea deal, Bland acknowledged he accepted a bribe during a July 2017 meeting with financial advisors and business managers in exchange for directing basketball players to retain their services.

The NCAA cited recordings entered as evidence in federal court that revealed Bland had boasted of his ability to connect the company with current or prospective student-athletes and his position of heavy influence over players' decisions.

NCAA rules bar athletics department staff members from receiving benefits for facilitating or arranging meetings between student-athletes and agents, financial advisors, or their representatives. Athletics staff members are also prohibited from representing anyone in the marketing of their athletics ability or reputation and accepting compensation for such representation.

"The associate head coach demonstrated a recurring lack of judgment that resulted in unethical conduct and representation violations for both himself and USC," the NCAA committee noted. "Although (Bland's) behavior may have originated out of friendship with the agent associate, it waded into murky ethical waters and ultimately intersected with the agent associate's corruption scheme within college basketball."

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