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UConn fired head basketball coach Kevin Ollie in March, four years after he coached the Huskies to an unexpected NCAA championship.
The firing came amid reports of NCAA recruiting violations during Ollie’s tenure. Details on those allegations were sparse until Wednesday when the Hartford Courant revealed the alleged violations uncovered using the Freedom of Information Act.
The school cited “just cause” in firing Ollie, which would allow the school to terminate him without paying the remaining $10.6 million on his contract which ran through 2021. NCAA violations would strengthen the school’s case to avoid making that payment.
UConn makes its case for ‘just cause’
Revealed from the 1,355 pages obtained by the Courant include a letter from UConn athletic director scolding Ollie and a handful of allegations laid out by Benedict himself.
Benedict to Ollie, per The Courant:
“… at the time of your hire, the importance of absolute compliance in running our men’s basketball program was stressed to you by president [Susan] Herbst and then-athletic director Warde Manuel. That makes the violations I … describe all the more troubling.”
Alleged violations involved former UConn star Ray Allen
The Courant goes on to detail the “troubling” alleged violations that include:
Ollie allegedly set up an impermissible phone conversation between a recruit and UConn great Ray Allen, who is considered a booster by the NCAA. Benedict accused Ollie of using an outside phone line to set up the call which he claimed “further suggests that the call deliberately occurred in a covert manner.”
Benedict accused Ollie of shooting baskets with a potential recruit, which UConn self-reported as a potential violation to the NCAA.
Documents allege that Ollie set players up with his personal friend Derrek Hamilton for on- and off-campus training. Three players allegedly traveled to Atlanta for training where they ate and had lodging free of charge, which would constitute NCAA violations. Hamilton spoke to the Courant about the allegations. Ollie allegedly downplayed Hamilton’s role in the program while UConn pointed to hotel records and complementary tickets Hamilton received as evidence of the allegations.
Benedict criticized Ollie for not self-reporting any violations, which he said was Ollie’s responsibility. “Every violation I am raising was discovered from sources other than you or your staff,” Benedict wrote.
Campus group criticizes UConn for handling of Ollie firing
When the documents were released, the UConn chapter of American Association of University Professors released a statement critical of the school’s citation of “just cause” to fire Ollie.
“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,” the AAUP letter states.
After winning the 2014 NCAA championship under Ollie, UConn suffered on the court under his watch. The school missed the NCAA Tournament in three of the following four seasons. Ollie’s last two UConn teams posted 16-17 and 14-18 records.
Jim Calhoun survived violations during his tenure
Ollie succeeded Jim Calhoun, who won three NCAA championships at UConn, but was found to have committed multiple violations while in Storrs.
UConn did not fire Calhoun in 2011 when the NCAA found him guilty of failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance and failing to monitor the program in areas of phone calls, text messages and inducements provided by a booster.
The NCAA suspended Calhoun for three games, placed the program on three years of probation and reduced scholarships. UConn admitted to major violations.
Calhoun continued to coach the Huskies until he retired at the end of the season, when Ollie took over.
Ollie has not publicly responded to Wednesday’s document reveal.
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