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NCAA hits USC with 2 years’ probation in basketball

LOS ANGELES (AP) – The NCAA hit Southern California’s men’s basketball program with two years’ probation and a $5,000 fine as the result of a former assistant who violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when he accepted a bribe to steer players to a business management company.

The Division I Committee on Infractions on Thursday announced the penalties, which include a 1% loss of the school’s basketball budget. The probation runs until April 14, 2023.

Tony Bland, the former associate head under coach Andy Enfield, wasn’t mentioned by name in the NCAA report. He was fired in January 2018. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery.

As part of his plea deal with federal prosecutors, Bland acknowledged accepting a $4,100 bribe during a July 2017 meeting with financial advisers and business managers in exchange for directing players to retain their services. He received two years’ probation.

The committee said the coach demonstrated “a recurring lack of judgment” that resulted in unethical conduct.

“Although (the coach’s) behavior may have originated out of friendship with the agent associate, it waded into murky ethical waters and ultimately intersected with the agent associate’s corruption scheme within college basketball,” the committee said in its report.

USC had already reduced by two the total number of scholarships it awarded in 2018-19 as part of self-imposed punishment.

Bland’s case was part of a broader investigation involving money and influence in college and professional basketball. Multiple people, including coaches, were arrested and charged with conspiracy and bribery charges.

Under Enfield, USC exceeded expectations this season, reaching the Elite Eight before losing to national runner-up Gonzaga. The Trojans finished 21-6 overall and second in the Pac-12.

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More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/College-basketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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