UConn self-imposes penalties for violations under Ollie
STORRS — The University of Connecticut announced Friday that it is self-imposing penalties, including the loss of a scholarship for the 2019-20 season, for violations of NCAA rules by its basketball program under former coach Kevin Ollie.
UConn fired Ollie after a 14-18 season a year ago, and later detailed numerous NCAA violations it said were committed during his tenure.
The NCAA investigated and sent the school a notice in September detailing allegations that included unethical conduct by Ollie, who it said provided false or misleading information about video calls to a recruit from two former UConn stars, Hall of Famer Ray Allen and San Antonio Spurs guard Rudy Gay.
The NCAA characterized the violations as “a severe breach of conduct.”
In its response to the NCAA, which outlined the sanctions, UConn said Friday it accepts responsibility for the violations, but put the blame for them squarely on Ollie.
“First, the investigation revealed multiple instances demonstrating Ollie’s increasingly cavalier attitude towards compliance and his former staff’s failure to follow straightforward rules of which they were unquestionably aware,” the school wrote. “These violations typically arose out of limited and manageable situations.”
UConn is hoping that by penalizing itself it can avoid any further sanctions from the NCAA, but says it understands that the Committee on Infractions can do as it sees fit.
“Our athletics department recognizes its responsibility to promote an atmosphere of honesty and integrity as it relates to NCAA compliance and beyond,” UConn Athletic Director David Benedict said in a statement. “We take these allegations very seriously and will continue to fully cooperate with the NCAA throughout this process.”
In addition to reducing scholarships next season from 13 to 12, the school said it will: enforce a one-week ban on unofficial visits during the 2018-2019 academic year; enforce a one-week ban on recruiting communications during the current academic year; reduce by one the number of allowable official visits this year; reduce from 130 to 126 the number of allowable recruiting days; pay a $5,000 fine to the NCAA; and prohibit student-managers from attending allowable pickup games involving team members.
Benedict’s decision to fire Ollie last March with cause allowed the school to forgo paying him the $10 million left on his contract. The school later released 1,300 pages of documents outlining alleged NCAA violations.
In addition to the improper video calls, those also included: Ollie shooting baskets with a recruit during an unofficial visit to the school and Ollie arranging improper training sessions with a friend who is a personal trainer both on campus and during out-of-state trips that amounted to improper gifts.
Ollie is challenging the school’s decision to withhold the money and has asserted that any violations were minimal and isolated. He has also alleged his firing was in part racially motivated, pointing out that violations under former coach Jim Calhoun, who is white, did not lead to Calhoun’s firing.
“UConn’s self-imposed ‘slap on the wrist’ is self-serving and disingenuous,” Ollie’s attorney, Jacques Parenteau, said Friday night. “UConn wants the NCAA to find against coach Ollie because UConn thinks it will give the university a tactical advantage in the arbitration proceedings that coach Ollie has brought against the University, where the stakes are well over $11 million.
More disturbingly, UConn is using its position of power as a member institution of the NCAA to influence the outcome of the proceedings involving coach Ollie unlike the way they treated coach Calhoun.”
UConn is 10-8 this season under new coach Dan Hurley, who said Friday that he understood the school’s decision to impose sanctions.
“We have been preparing for this eventuality and will make the necessary adjustments to move forward,” he said.