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USC Receives 2 Years of Probation Following NCAA Investigation After FBI Probe

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 15, 2021

Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

The USC men's basketball team has avoided a postseason ban for NCAA infractions committed by former associate head coach Tony Bland.

The NCAA announced Thursday it placed the Trojans on probation for two years and levied a fine of $5,000 plus 1 percent of the men's basketball program budget. Bland received a three-year show-cause order.

USC was among the schools involved in the FBI's investigation into corruption in college basketball.

In January 2019, Bland pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit bribery. He had admitted to receiving $4,100 to help direct players to sign with specified financial advisers and managers.

The NCAA referenced the FBI's investigation in its announcement detailing the penalties for USC:

"As part of his plea deal for federal proceedings, the former associate head coach acknowledged that he had accepted a bribe during a July 2017 meeting with financial advisors and business managers in exchange for directing basketball players to retain their services.
"Government recordings from that meeting and a second meeting in August 2017 — which were evidence in federal court — revealed the associate head coach had touted his ability to connect the company with current or prospective student-athletes, noting that he had heavy influence over players’ decisions."
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However, the organization also noted Bland "met his obligation" when he cooperated with NCAA investigators and provided the necessary information in the case.

Officials also looked favorably upon USC after the school issued self-imposed sanctions in advance of any final ruling. The Trojans reduced their available scholarships by two for the 2018-19 academic year and slightly limited the amount of contact they could have with prospective recruits.

USC head coach Andy Enfield guided the team to the Elite Eight this March for the first time since 2001. Leading scorer Evan Mobley is likely to move on to the NBA, but the Trojans sit 14th in 247Sports' composite team rankings for the 2021 recruiting cycle.

While the NCAA investigation cast a shadow over the program, the outcome shouldn't hinder USC much after the school avoided the worst-case scenario.