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New Haven Register (Connecticut)

 

UConn president Susan Herbst has upheld the dismissal of Kevin Ollie as men's basketball coach, and the situation is going to arbitration.

Herbst sent a letter to UConn AAUP executive director Michael Bailey on Tuesday terminating Ollie in what Bailey said was the "last step in a calculated process to replace Coach Ollie without paying him the amount due to him under his employment agreement with the University of Connecticut."

Ollie was fired on March 10 for "just cause" after six seasons at the helm, with more than $10 million left on his contract. Less than two weeks later, UConn hired Dan Hurley as its new head coach.

Documents obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media via the Freedom of Information Act reveal UConn's case includes allegations Ollie arranged for phone call between a recruit and Ray Allen. Ollie also shot baskets in Storrs with a visiting recruit in September, set up training sessions for his players with a friend in Atlanta, and failed to disclose NCAA potential violations to the school.

According to 1,355 pages of records, UConn's case against Ollie hinges on a series of violations. Among the most damning is a phone between an unnamed recruit and Allen, who will be inducted in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in the fall.

Allen is described as a booster in the the eyes of the NCAA and the call was initiated on a the phone of an executive assistant, which athletic director David Benedict said "suggests that the call deliberately occurred in a covert manner."

Ollie denied the call was prearranged, but witnesses — including former UConn assistant coach Glen Miller — "recall it being discussed ahead of time.

UConn also cited the presence of Ollie's close friend Derek Hamilton, who trained players off campus and in Atlanta.

The March 10 letter from Benedict to Ollie states the termination was the result of "failure to promote compliance, failure to timely report instances of non-compliance, intentional participation in impermissible on-campus activity with a prospective student-athlete and a representative of the University's athletic interests for recruiting purposes."

The latter violation is a reference to a video shared on Twitter that shows Ollie shooting baskets with California recruit James Akinjo at Werth Family Center during an official visit in September. The incident was self reported to the NCAA.

"At the time of your hire, the importance of absolute compliance in running our Men's Basketball program was stressed to you by President Herbst and the-Athletic Director Warde Manuel," Benedict said in the letter to Ollie. "That makes the violations I am about to describe all the more troubling."

In a letter emailed to Hearst Connecticut Media, Bailey said UConn had a "pre-existing plan to hire Coach Dan Hurley," and took the "extreme step" to justify just cause before the NCAA completed its ongoing investigation.

"To falsely claim 'just cause' exists for alleged NCAA infractions in order to avoid paying a debt that is due to Coach Ollie exposes the hypocrisy of the University's treatment of Coach Ollie," Bailey wrote.

Bailey added that Herbst's letter denied any comparison to be made between Ollie's "harsh treatment" and other UConn coaches, including Jim Calhoun — noting that the university stood by Calhoun and supported him throughout an NCAA investigation in 2010-11, and even after the NCAA determined Calhoun and his subordinates had committed violations.

Calhoun received a three-game suspension by the NCAA and was issued a "letter of admonishment" from the school.

Hearst Connecticut Media acquired emails and other documentation regarding recent secondary violations committed by UConn. In one, Ollie shot a few baskets, while in street clothes on the way to lunch, with a recruit on an official visit Sept. 8-10, 2017, inside the Werth Family Champions Center. The recruit, whose name was redacted from the document, was Akinjo. His aunt posted video of Ollie shooting baskets with Akinjo, and it was ruled non-permissable by UConn's compliance department since high school season had not concluded and the recruit hadn't received proper medical clearance.

In another, on Oct. 22, 2017, a UConn men's basketball player received an otherwise permissible workout from an outside trainer inside UConn's practice facility. The player was declared ineligible for competition until making compensation for the value of the benefits ($40) to a charity of his choice.

Bailey said that UConn has provided information to the AAUP about 120 secondary violations by other coaches in all sports at UConn from 2010 to the present. None of those coaches were fired.

According to Bailey, since Ollie was hired in September, 2012, UConn declared 11 secondary or level-three infractions by the women's basketball program (only two of which were self-reported by the program), 12 similar infractions by the men's program and 13 by the football program.

"Thus," Bailey wrote, "the unfair, differential treatment applied to Coach Ollie to avoid paying his contract is readily apparent in the University's treatment of him in contrast to his peers at UConn."

"Coach Ollie will surely prevail in the arbitration proceeding that is to follow," Bailey added, "but at great expense to his reputation and his career. All citizens of the state who are concerned about the integrity of the University of Connecticut need to be aware of the unfair, double standard applied to Coach Ollie and should speak out against this blatant inequity."

david.borges@hearstmediact.com

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June 21, 2018
 
 
 

 

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