Former coach Kevin Ollie wins $11M arbitration case against UConn
UConn issued a statement, via spokesperson Stephanie Reitz, saying it “vigorously disagrees” with the decision and maintains that Ollie’s termination was correct and appropriate.
Former UConn men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie has won his arbitration case against the school after claiming he was wrongfully terminated from his role in 2018 and is due nearly $11.2 million within the next 10 business days.
According to Ollie’s attorneys, Jacques J. Parenteau and William Madsen, Ollie is owed exactly $11,157,032.95.
The case’s arbitrator, Mark L. Irvings, noted that
UConn violated a collective bargaining agreement by terminating Ollie for “just cause.”
Ollie was fired in March 2018 by UConn, which cited just cause for the move. Ollie’s program was struggling and NCAA violations were later revealed.
A grievance was filed on
Ollie’s behalf by The University Of Connecticut Chapter of the American Association of University Professors, which represents coaches at the school.
Ollie, who led UConn to the 2014 national title, had about $11 million left on his contract. According to Parenteau, the sides attempted mediation before the case went to an arbitrator, “but UConn took a completely unrealistic position throughout.”
In a statement released by his attorneys, Ollie said he was “pleased” with the decision, and thanked God, his family, his attorneys, and Connecticut AAUP executive director Michael Bailey.
“In closing,” Ollie’s statement read, “I wish to assure the University of Connecticut community, my alma mater and an institution that has meant so much to me over the years, that the University will always have a special place in my heart and will always be a part of my family.”
Ollie is coach and director of player development for Overtime Elite, an organization with 24 high school-aged recruits who earn a salary and are thus ineligible for college basketball.
UConn issued a statement, via spokesperson Stephanie Reitz, saying it “vigorously disagrees” with the decision and maintains that Ollie’s termination was correct and appropriate:
“Indeed, in his decision, the arbitrator agrees that the NCAA’s ruling that Ollie engaged in serious NCAA violations gave UConn sufficient basis to terminate Ollie for just cause,” the statement read. “However, the arbitrator concluded that UConn should have waited the 16 months it took for the NCAA proceedings to conclude before terminating Ollie.
“As an NCAA member institution, UConn
did not have the luxury of waiting more than a year before terminating Ollie for the misconduct the university was aware he had engaged in. UConn could not continue to employ a head coach with the knowledge that he had violated NCAA rules that put student athletes, as well as the entire UConn athletics program, in jeopardy.”
The statement added: “The arbitrator’s decision is nonsensical and seriously impedes the University’s ability to manage its athletics program. It also sends a signal to other coaches in Connecticut that they may ignore NCAA rules with impunity and continue to be employed and paid.”
While the arbitrator’s decision is final, UConn could fight the decision if any type of corruption was found, or if the ruling violated some sort of public policy (i.e., a school bus driver reinstated after multiple DUI convictions).
In his opinion, Irvings stated that as an employee of the university and member of the UConn-AAUP chapter, Ollie was “entitled to the protections of the CBA between the Union and the University as well as UConn’s policies and procedures for employee discipline and discharge. Irving wrote UConn “was operating under a number of incorrect assumptions” at the time it decided to terminate Ollie supposedly for just cause.
He noted that under a collective bargaining agreement, a number of important due process protections are included.
“An employer must show that at the time it made the decision to terminate it possessed the grounds upon which the termination was supposedly based,” Irvings wrote. “An employer cannot first terminate an employee and then undertake an investigation to establish the factual grounds supporting its predetermined conclusion.”
Irvings replaced Marcia Greenbaum, who passed away almost exactly a year ago, as arbitrator of the case.
Parenteau also noted that Ollie’s federal discrimination case against UConn is still very much in play. Ollie contends that he was treated differently than a white coach in his termination.
“We’re evaluating what additional actions can be taken in federal court,” Parenteau said, “based on disparate treatment that was found in arbitration.”
In a statement, Ollie’s counsel noted the decision “completely vindicates Kevin Ollie and his tenure as Head Coach at the University of Connecticut. More importantly, it restores his good reputation as an individual with the highest ethical standards. Contrary to the NCAA’s erroneous and unfounded decision released on July 2, 2019 — a decision that was based on a mere six hours of hearings—this arbitration clearly established—after 33 days of hearings and the testimony and cross examination of actual witnesses under oath—that Kevin Ollie did not violate the NCAA rules that were used to justify the draconian sanctions imposed on him. The Arbitrator correctly found that there was no just cause to terminate Kevin Ollie’s employment as the Head Coach of a NCAA basketball team.”