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USC fires Tony Bland in wake of college basketball bribery case

USC fires Tony Bland in wake of college basketball bribery case
Tony Bland has been fired as associate head coach at USC months after his arrest in the college basketball bribery and corruption probe. (Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

USC has fired associate head coach Tony Bland in the aftermath of his arrest last fall in the college basketball bribery and corruption probe, his attorney told The Times.

Jeffrey Lichtman, Bland’s New York-based attorney, said USC cut ties with the coach last week. Lichtman said the school cited the federal charges as the reason.

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“We're disappointed, obviously, as Tony enjoys the presumption of innocence in court but not with his employer,” Lichtman told The Times on Thursday. “However, USC certainly treated him better than the other universities treated their indicted coaches and, for that, Tony is extremely grateful. He appreciates his time at USC and sends his best wishes to everyone including the administration, coaching staff and the players.”

The school placed Bland on administrative leave hours after FBI agents arrested him in September. Assistant coaches at Arizona, Auburn and Oklahoma State were among 10 people arrested. The three other assistants — Lamont Evans, Chuck Person and Book Richardson — have also been fired.

Federal prosecutors in New York alleged that Bland received a $13,000 bribe in July from would-be agent Christian Dawkins and financial advisor Munish Sood in exchange for steering USC players to use their services when they became professionals.

The prosecutors also accused Bland of facilitating payments of $4,000 and $5,000 to associates of two USC-linked players, identified as Player-8 and Player-9 in the criminal complaint, in late August.

USC is keeping sophomore De’Anthony Melton, named by his attorney as Player-9, out for the season because of the case. A person with direct knowledge of the case said Player-8 is Taeshon Cherry, a top recruit from San Diego who withdrew his commitment to sign with USC in December and recently pledged to attend Arizona State.

The players haven’t been accused of any wrongdoing.

A federal grand jury in New York indicted Bland on four charges in November. He pleaded not guilty.

During a meeting at a restaurant on USC’s campus in August recorded by an undercover FBI agent, Bland told Dawkins and Sood that if they funded the families of USC players and recruits, he would direct them to use the men’s services, the criminal complaint says.

“My part of the job can be to get the parents, and to introduce them to Christian [Dawkins] and say, ‘Hey, I trust him and vouch for him,’” Bland said, according to the complaint.

The coach added: “I can definitely get the players .... And I can definitely mold the players and put them in the lap of you guys.”

After the arrest, USC quickly scrubbed mentions of Bland from the school’s website. His biography once described him as an “elite recruiter.” He was well-connected, charismatic and appeared on track to becoming a head coach.

Bland played basketball at Westchester High, then split his college career between Syracuse and San Diego State.

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