With the assistance of his union, Kevin Ollie will fight to retain his job and contest UConn‘s decision to fire him for “just cause.”
The program is reportedly the subject of an ongoing NCAA inquiry.
Ollie said he intends to dispute the university’s decision, which athletic director David Benedict called “unfortunate” but “necessary” in a Saturday release. UConn announced that it had “initiated disciplinary procedures” and moved toward terminating Ollie.
“The University of Connecticut, which has been my home and my family since I was 18 years of age, has decided to initiate the procedures to terminate my employment for cause, which I am contesting,” Ollie said in a statement to ESPN. “As the head coach of the University of Connecticut Huskies, which is one of the greatest honors and privileges of my life, I have always diligently promoted an atmosphere of compliance for all involved in the program, directly or indirectly. It has always been my creed to conduct myself in a manner that reflects positively on the university, my program and my family. My objective throughout my eight-year tenure has been to nurture and develop young men to be productive citizens, positive role models and active community leaders. I am confident that I have strived to model behaviors which are consistent with this objective. This process has just begun, and I intend to work vigorously to defend my honor and my integrity, and to defend my good name to the fullest extent provided under the law, the university grievance procedures and the NCAA compliance process.”
Ollie is a member of the University of Connecticut’s branch of the American Association of University Professors, a union that represents thousands of faculty members around the country. Per those close to the situation, few college basketball coaches possess union protection.
But Ollie’s contract stipulates he’s entitled to a hearing within the next 15 days to defend himself against the school’s claim that it has the right to fire him with “just cause” and avoid the multimillion-dollar payout he’d receive if he were terminated without cause.
“If the director of athletics or more senior official judges that the grounds for dismissal or discipline require the immediate suspension of the bargaining unit member, the suspension shall be with pay until the hearings described … have taken place,” the collective bargaining agreement between Connecticut ‘s board of trustees and the AAUP states.
Michael Bailey, the executive director of the AAUP’s Connecticut branch, said the school must prove “serious misconduct beyond the preponderance of evidence” to successfully terminate the coach with cause. He said Ollie will defend himself against the allegations in the initial hearing. If he’s unsuccessful in that hearing, Ollie could appeal to Connecticut President Susan Herbst.
If that fails, his case could go to arbitration and an arbitrator could decide to reduce the termination to a lesser penalty.
“As far as we’re concerned, they’re allegations that have not been proved,” Bailey said. He would not detail the allegations the school has made against Ollie.
In January, the university confirmed that it’s the subject of an NCAA inquiry, without discussing details.
The school’s Saturday announcement came after Connecticut lost to a shorthanded SMU squad in the American Athletic Conference tournament, sealing a 14-18 record and the second consecutive sub-.500 season of Ollie’s tenure.
“The men’s basketball program has a proud history and a tradition of excellence,” Herbst said in a statement. “Our goal, above all, is to ensure we have a program that UConn Nation can be proud of, including our students, alumni, fans and all our committed supporters.”
Ollie won a national championship in 2014 but could not sustain that level of success in the years that followed. The school could owe him the $10 million that’s left on his contract if he’s ultimately terminated without cause.
“It is unfortunate that this decision became necessary,” Benedict said in the statement. “As with all of our programs, we hold men’s basketball to the highest standards. We will begin a national search immediately to identify our next head coach.”