UConn men’s basketball Ollie accuses school of violating his rights
Former UConn basketball Kevin Ollie has accused his old employer of violating his constitutional rights, according to a letter obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media through a Freedom of Information Act request.
In the April 3 letter to UConn president Susan Herbst, Ollie’s legal team contends the school violated Ollie’s 14th Amendment rights by “subverting Coach Ollie’s opportunity to respond to charges and evidence in a meaningful way in advance of the decision to terminate his employment,”
The 14th Amendment includes a due process clause. Ollie’s team is accusing UConn of denying him due process as it attempts to terminate him for “just cause” and avoid paying over $10 million remaining on a contract that was due to expire in 2021.
The letter, which is signed by William G. Madsen and Jacques J. Parenteau, notes that, per the collective bargaining agreement, Ollie could only be fired for “serious misconduct,” and that his dismissal should only be the final step in a progressive disciplinary system, with each incident of misconduct judged solely on factual merits.
“These facts conclusively prove that the University of Connecticut has decided to terminate Coach Ollie’s employment regardless of whether there is ‘just cause’ to do so under the CBA,” the letter reads, “but has initiated termination procedures under the ‘just cause’ provision in order to save millions of dollars.”
While Hearst Connecticut Media first reported in January that UConn was the subject of an NCAA probe, it’s not known exactly what the investigation entailed. Whatever it is, it wasn’t enough to worry new coach Dan Hurley when he was hired on March 22, meaning the school isn’t likely facing serious NCAA punishment.
The letter also states, “The public record, action taken, and authorized communications by representatives of the University of Connecticut, demonstrate that the decision to terminate Coach Ollie has already been made and therefore the University of Connecticut has effectively negated Coach Ollie’s property right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
With UConn the focus of an NCAA inquiry, the school used the term “just cause” in firing Ollie last month. While Ollie led UConn to an NCAA title in 2014, the program has slipped in recent years and the Huskies were 14-18 last season.
Ollie, as a member of the American Association of University Professors, countered that he was entitled to a letter that stated the reasons for the termination and to a hearing process. Ollie had a hearing with UConn athletic director David Benedict on April 12, when the school laid out its case for the firing.
The UConn AAUP responded on Wednesday to last week’s hearing and is awaiting Benedict’s response. If Benedict (as expected) upholds Ollie’s termination, the union has seven days to appeal, and Ollie have the right to a hearing before Herbst within 15 days. If Herbst upholds the decision, it would go to arbitration, a process that could take months.
Oddly, there is no timetable for Benedict’s response.
On March 22, UConn hired former Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley as Ollie’s replacement.