Andy Enfield, Tony Bland

Shown in 2017, USC Coach Andy Enfield, left, talks to officials as assistant coach Tony Bland stands behind him. USC’s men’s basketball program was placed on two years’ probation because Bland accepted a bribe to steer players to a business management company. Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — The NCAA hit Southern California’s men’s basketball program with two years’ probation on Thursday because a former assistant coach violated NCAA ethics rules when he accepted a bribe to steer players to a business management company.

The Division I Committee on Infractions announced the penalties, which include a $5,000 fine and a 1% loss of the private school’s basketball budget. The probation, which does not include a postseason ban, runs until April 14, 2023.

Tony Bland, the former associate head coach under Coach Andy Enfield, wasn’t mentioned by name in the NCAA report. He was arrested by FBI agents in September 2017. USC fired Bland four months later. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery in January 2019 and cooperated with the NCAA’s investigation.

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 when they entered the pro ranks. He received two years’ probation.

USC is the fourth school involved in the federal investigation of conspiracy and bribery in college basketball to be punished by the NCAA. South Carolina is on two years’ probation; Oklahoma State is on three years’ probation and banned from participating in the postseason for one season; and Alabama was put on three years’ probation.

Other schools that have acknowledged receiving a notice of allegations from the NCAA are Arizona, which fired Coach Sean Miller on April 7, Kansas, Louisville, North Carolina State, and TCU.

In Bland’s case, government recordings from the meetings revealed he had touted his ability to connect the company with current or prospective players, noting he had heavy influence over their decisions. The meetings violated NCAA rules that prohibit athletics staff from receiving benefits for facilitating or arranging a meeting between a player and an agent or financial adviser.

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.

MICHIGAN: Senior Isaiah Livers is not returning for an extra year of eligibility, a team spokesman confirmed.

At this point, guard Eli Brooks is the only Michigan player expected to take advantage of the extra year that the NCAA is allowing because of the coronavirus pandemic. That means Michigan loses Livers, guard Mike Smith, guard Chaundee Brown and forward Austin Davis from this year’s team that won the Big Ten title and reached the Elite Eight.

The Wolverines also await NBA draft decisions from sophomore guard Franz Wagner and freshman center Hunter Dickinson.

Livers missed this year’s NCAA Tournament because of a right foot injury and is recovering from surgery earlier this month.

CINCINNATI: Cincinnati has hired UNC Greensboro Coach Wes Miller to replace the fired John Brannen. Miller, regarded as one of the top young coaches in college basketball, won 185 games in 10 seasons at UNC Greensboro.

Over the last five years, the Spartans have five-straight 20-win seasons, two NCAA Tournament appearances, two NIT appearances and two Southern Conference tournament championships. Miller’s six-year contract must still be approved by the school’s board of trustees. Terms were not disclosed.

“He is an extremely dynamic coach and mentor who impressed me with his drive, focus and attention to detail,” Cincinnati Athletic Director John Cunningham said. “He’s a proven winner as a head coach and was able to rebuild a program and lead a remarkable turnaround at UNCG over the last decade. We cast a very wide net in this search and Wes emerged as the right coach to lead the Bearcats into the future.”

WOMEN’S VOLLEYBALL

RICE: Rice is out of the NCAA tournament in Omaha, Nebraska, because of COVID-19 protocols, and its opening match against North Carolina A&T on Wednesday night was declared a no contest.

The Owls (16-5) were set to make their third straight appearance in the tournament, and sixth overall, after winning the Conference USA West Division title. Coach Genny Volpe says the team is devastated.

“It certainly is painful to see how much the team wanted to compete and to have to break the news to them that they couldn’t play,” Volpe said. “To compete in this tournament meant so much to all of us.”


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