USC probe finds no institutional neglect; Tony Bland acted 'outside boundaries'

An internal investigation by USC in the wake of the FBI's probe into corruption in college basketball found no institutional neglect, the school's athletic director, Lynn Swann, told the Southern California News Group.

USC hired former FBI director Louis Freeh's firm, Freeh Group International Solutions, to help conduct the internal investigation on Sept. 26, when then-assistant basketball coach Tony Bland was arrested for allegedly receiving bribes to funnel potential NBA players at USC toward specific business management and/or financial advisory services.

"All the things we have in place, all the things we attempt to do, all the onboarding we do with coaches and staff coming in to understand compliance and rules, were all intact," Swann said. "All those things were done. What you had, at the end of the day, was someone who was operating outside those boundaries."

Bland was placed on administrative leave and fired Jan. 19, according to his attorney. Bland pleaded not guilty to four charges in November.

"So, you can do all the important things, smart things and the right things," Swann told the Southern California News Group. "The one thing you can never totally stop is one individual saying, 'This is what I've decided to do,' regardless of their understanding of what the rules are."

Swann also addressed the school's decision to suspend sophomore guard De'Anthony Melton for his connection to the FBI investigation. According to Melton's attorney, Vicki Podberesky, a family friend of Melton's, Dave Elliott, took a plane ticket and possibly a hotel room from would-be agent Christian Dawkins.

"I won't go into details, but our first priority here is to protect the program and to also protect the players in that program," Swann said. "Our process was, during our investigation, to look at every detail, look at the facts, make a determination, constant communication with the NCAA in terms of rules violations and interpretations. We came to a conclusion, based on the actions of the family friend, that De'Anthony would be considered noncompliant.

"If he had played in these games, these games would potentially have been forfeited. We felt the best thing to do, while still advocating and trying to find a way if the facts would support it, that he could play, while certainly making sure the team was compliant and could move forward. At the end of the day, we had to make that decision."

USC (18-9, 9-5) is tied with UCLA for second place in the Pac-12 standings with four games remaining in the regular season. In ESPN's most recent Bracketology, the Trojans were projected as one of the last four teams to be selected in the NCAA tournament.