Congressional committee wants answers in college basketball bribery scandal

Congress is getting involved in college basketball’s bribery scandal.

Two top members of the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee have requested a briefing from the NCAA and companies allegedly involved in the sprawling case that has shaken the sport.

“The federal government’s investigation into sports companies and basketball coaches at numerous colleges across the nation is extremely troubling and puts into serious question the NCAA’s ability to oversee its own institutions,” Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) said in a joint statement Thursday.

“In addition to any criminal activities, these allegations raise concerns about the effects of these predatory schemes on youth athletes and how hidden financial connections between advertisers and endorsers influence young consumers.”

The scandal burst into public view Tuesday when the FBI arrested USC men’s basketball assistant coach Tony Bland, Arizona assistant Emanuel Richardson, Auburn assistant Chuck Person and Oklahoma State assistant Lamont Evans as well as three Adidas employees and three other men.

The 10 men were charged with a variety of crimes in U.S. District Court in New York relating to alleged schemes to bribe college coaches and players to sign with a specific agent, financial advisor and shoe company.

Prosecutors charged Bland, placed on administrative leave by USC on Tuesday, with accepting a $13,000 bribe in exchange for steering Trojans players to Christian Dawkins, a former agent trying to start his own firm, and Munish Sood, a financial advisor.

Court documents detail how the FBI used cameras, microphones, an informant and undercover agent to record what happened in meetings with the coaches.

“I definitely can get the players,” Bland said during a July 31 meeting with Dawkins and two other men in Las Vegas. “And I can definitely mold the players and put them in the lap of you guys.”

As part of the arrangement, according to court documents, Bland facilitated $9,000 in cash payments to the families of two unnamed USC players during an Aug. 31 meeting.

Former FBI Director Louis Freeh is leading an investigation into the matter for USC.

nathan.fenno@latimes.com

Twitter: @nathanfenno

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