USC avoids major penalties from the NCAA Committee on Infractions

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Former USC men’s basketball associate head coach Anthony Bland violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when he accepted a $4,100 bribe from a business management company to influence student athletes, according to a decision released by the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions Thursday. 

However, despite the Committee’s determination, major penalties, such as a postseason ban, were not prescribed and are therefore unlikely to be levied against USC. 

Instead, the Committee recommended two years of probation, a $5,000 fine plus 1% of the men’s basketball program budget and a three-year show-cause order for Bland. 

Probation means that if the men’s basketball program violates other NCAA legislation within the two-year period, their probation period could be extended and additional sanctions applied. For Bland, the show-cause order means that any NCAA member school employing him must restrict him from any athletically related duties unless it shows cause as to why the restrictions should not apply.

Additional prescribed penalties, such as the reduction of two scholarships and cuts in the number of recruiting visits the team can allow, had already been self-imposed by USC during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 academic years and were accepted by the committee, which praised USC for “exemplary cooperation” and for the “meaningful penalties” the school self-imposed.

The case, which gave rise to penalties, originated in September 2017 when FBI agents arrested Bland in connection with an indictment and federal criminal complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York. The complaint alleged that Bland had accepted cash bribes from a professional sports agent in exchange for influencing student-athletes to retain the services of the agent’s management company when the student athletes entered the NBA. 

In 2019, Bland pleaded guilty to a felony count of conspiracy to commit bribery. As part of his plea deal with federal prosecutors, Bland acknowledged that he accepted a bribe during a July 2017 meeting with financial advisers and business managers in exchange for directing basketball players to retain their services.

“I agreed to receive payments in exchange for directing basketball players from the University of Southern California … to retain the services of certain financial advisors and business managers,” said Bland during his hearing in 2019. 

Bland’s July 2017 meeting, in addition to a second meeting in August 2017, violated NCAA rules because, according to the NCAA’s press release on the Committee’s decision, “athletics department staff members are prohibited from receiving benefits for facilitating or arranging a meeting between a student-athlete and an agent, financial advisor, or representative of an agent or advisor. Athletics staff members also are prohibited from representing, directly or indirectly, any individual in the marketing of their athletics ability or reputation to an agency and from accepting compensation for the representation.”

USC Athletic Director Mike Bohn issued a statement following the Committee’s decision. 

“We are thrilled this matter is now behind us, and our focus remains on being the most student-athlete centered program in the country,” Bohn said in the statement.