HARTFORD - UConn President Susan Herbst told Kevin Ollie she was upholding his firing because the former men's basketball coach had a pattern of breaking NCAA rules and committed serious violations, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press.
The school released the June 19 letter from Herbst to Ollie on Monday in response to open records requests from the AP and other news organizations.
Ollie has asserted that the violations which led to his firing in March were minimal and isolated.
Herbst refutes that idea in the letter, writing that “eventually even a series of ‘isolated’ or ‘de mimimis’ violations can become a pattern of non-compliance, which is what occurred in the Men's Basketball program under your leadership.”
She said the violations “are serious under any definition which may be applied and constitute just cause for your termination.”
Ollie's attorney, Jacques Parenteau, said the minor issues cited by Herbst can't be called a pattern “just by lumping them together and claiming a pattern exists.”
“The collective bargaining agreement requires ‘serious misconduct’ with each act to be viewed on its own merit in order to have just cause to terminate employment,” he said. “President Herbst's letter claiming serious misconduct based on this alleged ‘pattern of non-compliance’ is just bootstrapping and nothing more than a desperate attempt to articulate a reason that sound legitimate in order to deny Coach Ollie the money he is owed by UConn.”
Ollie has been appealing the decision to fire him with cause, which would allow the school to forgo paying him the more than $10 million left on his contract with the school.
Michael Bailey, the director of the UConn chapter of the American Association of University Professors, the employee union that represents Ollie has said the union plans to take the decision to arbitration.
The violations cited by Athletic Director David Benedict in firing Ollie and outlined in more than 1,300 pages of documents released last week include: Ollie shooting baskets with a recruit during an unofficial visit to the school last September; Ollie arranging a video call between a potential recruit and Ray Allen, the former NBA great who is now considered a school booster by the NCAA 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.
Herbst said in her letter that Ollie's failure to report any inadvertent violations constitutes either a knowing disregard for his compliance obligations or a “gross inability to satisfy them.”
Ollie was fired after a 14-18 season amid an NCAA investigation. He led UConn to a 127-79 record over six seasons, including the 2014 national title.
The NCAA has not released the results of its investigation.
The documents provided by UConn last week include transcripts of interviews by the school's compliance staff and NCAA officials about alleged violations. That includes secondhand information provided by former UConn assistant coach Glenn Miller, who was fired by Ollie after the 2016-17 season, about an alleged $30,000 payment by Ollie to the mother of a player.
That was not cited by Benedict as one of the issues leading to Ollie's firing and Parenteau has said it is untrue.