LOS ANGELES — USC held its first practice of the season Friday but instead of talking about a potential top 10 team, all of the focus was on missing assistant coach Tony Bland, who was charged with fraud and corruption for taking bribes.
The entire roster practiced Friday, which was newsworthy because many wondered if USC would hold any players out. Two unidentified players were described in the federal case because their families allegedly took $9,000.
“As of now, we have everyone playing and we expect them to be eligible,” USC coach Andy Enfield said.
There was little else Enfield said regarding the FBI investigation and he joked with reporters before a press conference, perhaps mindful he might need some friends.
“I’ve been instructed not to comment,” Enfield said. “I can’t say a word about it.”
Enfield did acknowledge it was a rough week for the program.
“The situation has been difficult and challenging and emotional,” he said.
The question is whether Enfield ever gets connected to Bland’s case. Enfield would not comment on whether he hired a lawyer.
Meanwhile, USC players were not afraid to support Bland, who was arrested Tuesday morning in Tampa, Fla.
“He’s a great guy to us,” USC forward Chimezie Metu said. “He’s still a great guy.”
Perhaps no player was closer to Bland than senior point guard Jordan McLaughlin, who was recruited by Bland and played for him longer than any other player on the roster.
“We all have emotions,” McLaughlin said. “For me, a little bit more. It’s tough. But we can still have the type of year we want to have.”
But there is more unknown about the coming season than known right now. Will USC lose two players? Will it be subject to any sanctions before the end of this season? Will Enfield be implicated? What else did Bland do?
USC has hired an independent investigator and at some point the NCAA will get involved. The federal corruption case is ongoing, which means more charges could…