Reports: Ex-USC assistant in bribery scandal nears plea deal

FILE PHOTO: Southern California Trojans associate head coach Tony Bland reacts during a NCAA basketball game against the Cal State Northridge Matadors at Galen Center in Los Angeles, California, U.S. on November 23, 2015. REUTERS/Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports/File Photo

Former USC assistant men’s basketball coach Tony Bland, fired in January after his indictment on four felony charges related to a federal bribery case, reportedly is close to reaching a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Reports Thursday vary as to whether Bland has reached the agreement or is in the process, as well as to whether the deal would call for Bland to serve time in prison.

ESPN’s Mark Schlabach reported that the deal is agreed to and that Bland is expected to receive probation. Yahoo! Sports’ Pat Forde, Pete Thamel and Dan Wetzel reported that the deal is close but not finalized, and that Bland could receive a prison term of 6-12 months, though, “It is quite possible he only receives probation, according to a source.”

Bland, 38, was indicted in November 2017 on charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, wire fraud, mail fraud conspiracy and violating the Travel Act. He is accused of accepting bribes in exchange for steering USC players to certain agents and financial-services providers once they turned professional, as well as facilitating payments to associates or family members of two former Trojans players.

According to the Yahoo report, Bland faced as many as 80 years in prison if convicted in his scheduled 2019 trial, but in pleading guilty to one count of federal funds bribery he would receive a Level 10 sentence — and potentially avoid prison.

Bland is far from the only person caught up in the scandal with trials pending.

Two other former assistant coaches — Oklahoma State’s Lamont Evans and Arizona’s Emanuel Richardson — are scheduled for trial in April. Ex-Auburn assistant Chuck Person and former NBA referee Rashan Michel are schedule for trial in February.

Former Adidas consultant Merl Code and ex-agent runner Christian Dawkins also face charges, though Code, Dawkins and Adidas executive James Gatto were convicted in October of felony bribery charges and are scheduled to be sentenced in March.

—Field Level Media

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