Key informant is cooperating with NCAA’s probe into college basketball corruption

USC coach Andy Enfield looks on during his team's 56-52 win over Utah at Galen Center on Jan. 30, 2020.
USC coach Andy Enfield looks on during his team’s 56-52 win over Utah at Galen Center on Thursday night.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

A key informant in the federal investigation into college basketball corruption that ensnared USC, Arizona and several other schools is cooperating with the NCAA’s probe of the matter.

Marty Blazer, a former financial advisor from Pittsburgh, made the disclosure in a sentencing memorandum filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan late Thursday.

“There are pending actions alleging NCAA violations against a number of colleges and universities and Mr. Blazer continues to cooperate with the NCAA’s investigation into corruption,” the filing said.

At least five schools — USC, Kansas, North Carolina State, Oklahoma State and Texas Christian — have received notices of allegation from the NCAA in connection with the investigation.

The nature of Blazer’s cooperation wasn’t detailed.

The federal probe became public in September 2017 when FBI agents arrested four college basketball assistant coaches — Tony Bland (USC), Book Richardson (Arizona), Chuck Person (Auburn) and Lamont Evans (Oklahoma State) — as part of a wide-ranging look into coaches accepting bribes to direct players to use a specific sports management company when they turned professional.


The sound of heavy footsteps in a hallway woke Tony Bland early on a September morning in 2017.

All of the coaches were fired by their schools and later accepted plea bargains. Bland and Person avoided serving prison time, while Evans and Richarson received three months each. Six other people charged in the investigation, including a former Adidas executive, were convicted or pleaded guilty.

Blazer started to work for the government in an “undercover capacity” in October 2014, the government said, traveling the country to meet with college basketball and football coaches and recording the meetings. That cooperation expanded to include meeting with FBI agents 25 times between November 2016 and August 2017, wearing cameras and recording devices during meetings with college basketball coaches, runners, players and others, and providing evidence for authorities to obtain at least 10 wiretap orders.

Blazer introduced an undercover FBI agent posing as an investor to Christian Dawkins, the chief executive of a fledgling sports management company, who was later found guilty at two trials related to the investigation. Blazer testified at the second trial held last year.

Nick Rakocevic scored 16 points with 15 rebounds, Elijah Weaver added 14 points and USC rallied for a 56-52 victory over Utah in game that honored Kobe and Gianna Bryant.

The filing said Blazer’s “substantial cooperation” in prosecutions stemming from the investigation “has not yet been fully disclosed” and was “extraordinary.”

“The end result of Blazer’s cooperation was arguably the biggest and most significant federal investigation and prosecution of corruption in college athletics,” federal prosecutors wrote in a letter to U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos also filed Thursday.

The cooperation stemmed from Blazer’s own legal troubles. He pleaded guilty in September 2017 to two counts of wire fraud, securities fraud, lying to the Securities and Exchange Commission and aggravated identity theft in connection with misappropriating more than $1.5 million from clients.

The memorandum Thursday asked that Blazer be sentenced to probation. He is scheduled to be sentenced by Ramos next week.