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Ex-UConn coach Ollie takes dispute to state, federal court

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TUCSON, AZ - DECEMBER 21: Head coach Kevin Ollie of the Connecticut Huskies reacts during the first half of the college basketball game against the Arizona Wildcats at McKale Center on December 21, 2017 in Tucson, Arizona. The Wildcats defeated the Huskies 73-58. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

HARTFORD — A federal judge in Connecticut has heard arguments in former UConn men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie’s $10 million dispute with the school over his firing.

Judge Kari Dooley in Bridgeport on Friday did not immediately rule on Ollie’s motion to allow him to move forward with a racial discrimination complaint against the school without jeopardizing his right to an arbitration hearing over his firing last year.

UConn has refused to waive a clause in its contract with Ollie’s union that could void arbitration if Ollie files a discrimination complaint with a state or federal panel.

The university fired Ollie last March, citing NCAA recruiting violations.

Ollie, who is black, alleges he was treated differently than former coach Jim Calhoun, who is white and wasn’t fired after being penalized for recruiting violations.

“We have spoken to many witnesses with direct knowledge of the claims in this case who were not interviewed by UConn and we are determined to preserve and present testimony that demonstrates UConn has violated Coach Ollie’s right to be paid in accordance with his contract,” Parenteau said.

The university fired Ollie last March after a 14-18 season, citing NCAA recruiting violations. The school said because the firing was “for cause” it did not have to pay the coach about $10 million left on his contract. Ollie filed an internal grievance seeking that money, which has led to the arbitration.

Parenteau argues that UConn was allowed to interview witnesses during the NCAA investigation of alleged violations and it would be unfair not to allow Ollie to depose those people, who can’t be compelled to attend the arbitration hearing.

“A great majority of these individual reside out of the State of Connecticut and so would not be available to provide relevant and crucial testimony (at the arbitration hearing) favorable to Coach Ollie’s case,” he wrote.

In federal court, Ollie, who is black, is seeking to preserve his right to file a discrimination complaint before either the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities or the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. He plans to argue that he was treated differently from former coach Jim Calhoun, who is white and wasn’t fired after being penalized for recruiting violations.

The school’s collective bargaining agreement with the union that represents Ollie states that UConn is not obligated to follow its internal grievance process, which includes arbitration, if the employee “seeks to resolve the matter in any other forum, whether administrative or judicial.”

The school has refused to waive that clause and argues that Ollie must exhaust his administrative options before taking any other action.

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