USC says Tony Bland ‘caused significant harm’ in college basketball corruption case

Tony Bland yells out instructions during a game between the USC men's basketball team and Stanford in January 2017. Bland pleaded guilty to a felony bribery charge in January.
(Brian Rothmuller / Associated Press)

Former USC associate head coach Tony Bland “caused significant harm to USC and its student-athletes” in connection with the federal probe into college basketball corruption, according to a letter from a senior school official filed in U.S. District Court in New York.

Michael Blanton, USC’s vice president for professionalism and ethics, sent the three-paragraph victim impact statement to U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos last month in advance of Bland’s sentencing Wednesday.

“The actions of Mr. Bland and his co-conspirators have significantly damaged the reputation of USC as an institution, the USC athletic department, and its men’s basketball program,” Blanton wrote.


“Further, their actions have prompted an NCAA investigation that may result in penalties. Lastly, USC was forced to expend significant amounts of money to investigate Mr. Bland’s conduct and to cooperate with the government as it has prosecuted this case.”

Bland pleaded guilty in January to a felony count of conspiracy to commit bribery as part of a deal with prosecutors. He admitted to accepting a $4,100 bribe in July 2017 in exchange for directing USC players to use a sports management company when they turned professional.

The actual amount Bland received appears to have been less than $4,100. Christian Dawkins, the chief executive of the fledgling company, testified in federal court last month that he pocketed the $13,000 bribe provided by an undercover FBI agent posing as an investor in the company, then gave Bland “between a thousand and two thousand dollars” to use at a friend’s bachelor party.

Prosecutors want Bland to serve six to 12 months in prison. His attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, asked Ramos for probation.

Lichtman declined to comment on the USC letter.

Bland, fired by USC in January 2018, will be the first of four college assistant coaches arrested by the FBI in the investigation to be sentenced. Former Arizona assistant Book Richardson will be sentenced Thursday, followed by former Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans on Friday and former Auburn assistant Chuck Person later this year.

“I respectfully ask that the Court simply recognize this is not a victimless crime,” Blanton wrote. “USC, its student-athletes, and college athletics as a whole have suffered greatly because of what Mr. Bland and his co-conspirators did.”


The letter didn’t detail how much the school spent investigating Bland or provide specifics for its allegations.

In another federal investigation impacting USC, former Trojans women’s soccer coach Ali Khosroshahin agreed Monday to plead guilty in the college admissions scandal. Former USC women’s soccer assistant Laura Janke pleaded guilty last month. Two other ex-USC employees charged in the investigation — senior associate athletic director Donna Heinel and water polo coach Jovan Vavic — have pleaded not guilty.

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Twitter: @nathanfenno