By Miriam Raftery
Photo: @TonyBland04 on Twitter
September 29, 2017 (San Diego) – Former San Diego State University assistant basketball coach Anthony “Tony” Bland helped propel the Aztecs to the NCAA tournament for all four years at SDSU from 2009 to 2013, before moving on to coach at the University of Southern California. But this week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York’s southern district announced the arrest of four Division I Coaches including Bland and six others in a college basketball and corruption scheme.
According to federal complaints unsealed earlier this week, he and the other coaches are accused of taking cash bribes from athletic advisors in exchange for influencing college players and their families to hire advisors who were paying bribes. A senior executive at an athletic company, working with corrupt advisors, funneled bribe payments to high school aged players and families to secure players’ commitments to attend universities sponsored by the company, instead of schools where athletes were sponsored by the company’s competitor.
The complaint does not name the company, but Patch.com reports that a representative for Adidas was among those arrested.
Bland is charged with numerous counts including conspiracy to commit bribery, solicitation of bribes and fraud. If convicted on all charges, Bland could face up to 80 years in federal prison.
He was reportedly caught on tape telling advisors in the scheme, “I definitely can get the players….and I can definitely mold the players and put them in the lap of you guys.” It is alleged that he performed these actions in return for bribe payments.
Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said, “The picture of college basketball painted by the charges is not a pretty one – coaches at some of the nation’s top programs taking cash bribes, managers and advisors circling blue-chip prospects like coyotes, and employees of a global sportswear company funneling cash to families of high school recruits. For the ten charged men, the madness of college basketball went well beyond the Big Dance in March. Month after month, the defendants allegedly exploited the hoop dreams of student-athletes around the country, treating them as little more than opportunities to enrich themselves through bribery and fraud schemes.”
He adds, “The defendants’ alleged criminal conduct not only sullied the spirit of amateur athletics, but showed contempt for the thousands of players and coaches who follow the rules, and play the game the right way.”
FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said the NCAA Division I and AAU coaches created a “pay-to-play culture, agreeing to provide access to their most valuable players while also effectively exerting their influence over them.” He said the arrests “should also serve as a warning to those who conduct business this way in the world of college athletics.”
The other coaches charged are Lamon Evans of Oklahoma State, Chuck Person of Auburn University, and Emanuel “Book” Richardson of the University of Arizona.
Before turning to coaching, Bland was a student at SDSU who helped lead the team to a Mountain West Conference tournament championship. After leaving SDSU for USC, he was an assistant coach and later associated head coach, helping build the Trojans team into a formidable national contender.
USC Athletic Director Lynn Swann expressed shock at the arrest and issued a statement affirming that USC “does not tolerate misconduct in any way” and will cooperate fully with the investigation.