The University of Connecticut must pay former men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie more than $11 million within the next 10 business days for improperly firing him, an arbitrator ruled Thursday.
Ollie won the arbitration case against UConn after claiming he was wrongfully terminated from his role and filing a grievance for the $11 million remaining in his contract, according to an article published by the New York Times.
Ollie was fired in March 2018 after coaching at UConn for six years and leading the Huskies to the 2014 NCAA championship, according to the article. The NCAA had been investigating recruiting violations reported by the university at the time.
Three violations were reported:
- Unsanctioned team activities were held during the summer.
- Players were allowed to work out with a trainer without permission.
- A video coordinator handled coaching duties.
Ollie also allegedly set up a phone call between a recruit and Ray Allen, a former NBA player and UConn alum. According to the New York Times article, Ollie “did not deny that the phone call happened but said it was unplanned.”
After the NCAA’s investigation concluded that Ollie had not complied with NCAA rules, UConn was given two years’ probation, fined $5000 and deprived of a scholarship for the 2019-20 recruiting class, according to the Times article.
In his grievance, Ollie argued that his predecessor Jim Calhoun, a Naismith Hall of Famer, committed his own NCAA violations, and rather than being terminated, was supported by the university.
In a statement released by his attorneys, Ollie said he was “pleased” with the arbitrator’s decision, adding that the UConn community would “always have a special place in my heart and will always be a part of my family.”
University spokesperson Stephanie Reitz issued a statement Thursday on behalf of UConn, noting that the university “vigorously disagrees” with the arbitrator’s decision and maintains that the decision to terminate Ollie was the “correct and appropriate decision.”
“Indeed, in his decision, the arbitrator agrees that the NCAA’s ruling that Ollie engaged in serious NCAA violations gave UConn sufficient basis to terminate Ollie for just cause,” Reitz said in the statement. “However, the arbitrator concluded that UConn should have waited the 16 months it took for the NCAA proceedings to conclude before terminating Ollie.”
Reitz cited UConn’s status as an NCAA member institution as the reason UConn could not have waited more than a year before terminating Ollie for the misconduct he had engaged in.
“UConn could not continue to employ a head coach with the knowledge that he had violated NCAA rules that put student athletes, as well as the entire UConn athletics program, in jeopardy,” Reitz added.
Reitz concluded the statement saying the decision is “nonsensical and seriously impedes the University’s ability to manage its athletics program.”
“It also sends a signal to other coaches in Connecticut that they may ignore NCAA rules with impunity and continue to be employed and paid,” Reitz said of the decision.
“It is also inconsistent that the coaches are entitled to the benefits of the employment contracts negotiated between the University and its coaches, but cannot be held to the ethical and behavioral standards contained in those same agreements,” Reitz added.