The NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions on Tuesday placed the UConn men’s basketball program on probation for two years and gave former coach Kevin Ollie a three-year show-cause order for failing to monitor his staff, not promoting an atmosphere of compliance and allegedly providing false or misleading statements to NCAA investigators.
The committee said the violations were primarily the result of three situations: pickup games exceeding preseason countable athletically related activity limits, a video coordinator counting as a coach and resulting in more than the allowable number of coaches, and a booster providing extra benefits to student-athletes.
“This case illustrates the importance of full candor and cooperation in the infractions process, as well as head coach control,” the NCAA committee said in its decision. “The former head coach faltered in both respects, increasing the severity of his violations and allowing violations within the program to occur for most of his tenure.”
Ollie’s attorney, Jacques J. Parenteau, said the former coach planned to appeal the Committee on Infractions’ decision.
“We are disappointed with the NCAA Committee on Infractions decision but not surprised that the Committee acted to support its member institution in the dispute between the University of Connecticut and Kevin Ollie where more than $11 million is at stake,” Parenteau said in a statement. “The NCAA failed to allow Kevin Ollie due process in the pre-hearing investigation by not providing his counsel the opportunity to interview key witnesses against him, including the associate head coach, the strength and conditioning coach and a key student athlete.
“In addition to deciding to ignore or reject every piece of exculpatory evidence offered by Coach Ollie’s legal team, and choosing to side with all of the University of Connecticut’s witnesses, many of whom gave contradictory statements, the Committee on Infractions made multiple factual errors that will be the subject of an appeal to the Infractions Appeals Committee.”
Among the most serious allegations:
• Former men’s basketball student managers attended preseason pickup games played by student-athletes. According to the NCAA, the pickup games became countable athletically related activity when the managers attended the games, kept statistics and regularly printed, copied and distributed them to coaches.
The NCAA alleged Ollie was aware that the games took place and didn’t report them to the compliance staff or ask if they were permissible. He also failed to monitor the managers’ actions to ensure the games followed NCAA rules.
• The program’s former video coordinator reviewed plays with and answered questions for student-athletes on and off the basketball court. The NCAA committee determined that the instruction exceeded the responsibilities of the video coordinator’s position, causing him to become a countable coach and the program to exceed its countable coaches limit.
• Trainer Derek Hamilton, who was Ollie’s friend and became a booster of the university, provided free on- and off-campus training sessions to three UConn players.
While at the off-campus training sessions, the trainer also provided free lodging, meals, transportation and access to a private gym. The committee noted the impermissible benefits resulted in the student-athletes competing while ineligible.
The NCAA said Ollie denied knowing that his players trained with the trainer, but the committee found that multiple individuals corroborated that Ollie knew about both the on- and off-campus training.
Last year, Hamilton told ESPN he did not inform Ollie about the workouts because the players didn’t want their head coach to know.
The NCAA also found several Level III violations, including improper video calls between NBA legend Ray Allen, San Antonio Spurs guard Rudy Gay and a top recruit.
During Ollie’s interview with the enforcement staff and school, according to the NCAA, he denied planning or arranging a video call between a prospect and a former NBA player, but the committee noted that “there was substantial information in the record that demonstrated that the head coach did in fact plan and arrange the call.”
“Failing to give the enforcement staff truthful information significantly harms its ability to conduct a thorough and timely investigation,” the committee’s report said. “The conduct was contrary to the standards of ethical conduct that the membership expects of athletics staff entrusted to set an example for student-athletes.”
The NCAA’s decision comes less than a week after UConn announced it was leaving the American Athletic Conference to return to the Big East, where it was an original member of the league from 1979 to 2013. The Huskies will play in the AAC this coming season before joining the Big East in 2020.
UConn announced in January it was self-imposing penalties, including the loss of one scholarship for the 2019-20 season. At the time, it blamed Ollie and his former staff for the violations.
The NCAA largely accepted UConn’s self-imposed penalties and also ordered the school to vacate any records from games in which the ineligible players competed. The NCAA also reduced the number of official visits by one during a two-year rolling period from 2018-19 to 2019-20 and imposed other recruiting restrictions, including a two-week ban on unofficial visits in 2019-20.
Ollie has repeatedly denied he intentionally committed any NCAA violations during his time at UConn, where he won a national championship in 2014. He’s still awaiting an arbitration hearing with the university as he continues his fight for the $10 million he believes he’s owed for the remaining years of his contract.
During the three-year show-cause order, any school employing Ollie must restrict him from any athletically related duties unless it shows cause why the restrictions should not apply.
Ollie 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.
Ollie, a four-year starter at UConn from 1991-95, was elevated to head coach of his alma mater in 2012, replacing Calhoun. In his second season in 2013-14, Ollie guided the Huskies to a 32-8 record and their fourth NCAA championship in 15 years.
Ollie’s teams reached the NCAA tournament only once more in his final four seasons, and he was fired in March 2018 after a 14-18 finish. At the time, the school said he was being fired with just cause because of the pending NCAA investigation.
In April, Ollie filed a lawsuit against Glenn Miller, his former assistant, alleging that Miller slandered him in comments to the NCAA about an alleged payment to a player’s mother.
Miller allegedly told NCAA investigators that he’d received secondhand information about an alleged $30,000 payment to Stephanie Garrett, the mother of Shonn Miller, who played at UConn in 2015-16 after transferring from Cornell.
Glenn Miller told NCAA investigators that his wife had befriended Garrett, who told her about the alleged payment, and the UConn coach’s wife relayed that information to him.