In the latest development in Kevin Ollie’s pursuit of a $10 million sum he believes he’s owed, the former men’s basketball coach intends to “assert claims against the University of Connecticut” for defamation and invasion of privacy after the school released transcripts related to an NCAA investigation, per a letter obtained by ESPN.
In the letter, which was sent to UConn President Susan Herbst on Tuesday, Ollie’s legal team demands a retraction from the school, which recently released NCAA transcripts to media outlets — in response to a Freedom of Information Act request — that included a secondhand claim by former associate head coach Glen Miller that Ollie paid the mother of a former recruit $30,000 in exchange for her son’s commitment.
Ollie’s lawyers want a retraction from the school. They claim the NCAA transcripts detailed false claims and confidential information that was protected by FOIA laws because they’re related to an ongoing investigation and personnel matters.
The school challenged Ollie’s claims and his legal team’s interpretation of Freedom of Information Act provisions.
“UConn released the documents in direct response to a Freedom of Information request by Mr. Ollie’s own attorneys,” the school said in a statement to ESPN. “Other parties, including the media, also requested and received these same documents as required by Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in Connecticut. The FOIA, which governs public agencies such as the University, does not permit the selective release of public records to certain parties while denying those same records to others.”
The alleged payment was not mentioned as a reason for Ollie’s dismissal in the school’s termination letter to Ollie, which was released by the school last week. Ollie’s lawyers claim the mother of the recruit denied she received any payment when she was interviewed by the NCAA, information they claim UConn had prior to the release of the transcripts.
“This false and defamatory claim was released without prior notice to Coach Ollie and no attempt was made by the University of Connecticut to protect Coach Ollie from this false and defamatory claim or to disavow it,” says the letter from Madsen, Prestley & Parenteau, the law firm representing Ollie. “The release of the confidential transcripts was coordinated to coincide with the publication of the news that Coach Ollie’s employment was terminated by you on June 19, 2018.”
In the termination letter, which Ollie was not given until June because he contested his firing through his union’s appeals process, Herbst said Ollie was a repeat offender who was fired in March after a 14-18 season because “eventually even a series of ‘isolated’ or ‘de minimis’ violations can become a pattern of non-compliance, which is what occurred in the Men’s Basketball program under your leadership.”
The alleged violations included Ollie playing basketball with a recruit, setting up “improper” training sessions and arranging for a video call between a recruit and Ray Allen, a former UConn star who is now considered a booster.
The sides are preparing to go to arbitration over Ollie’s claim that he’s still owed the $10 million remaining on his contract. The school says his alleged violations allow them to fire him with cause and without additional payment.
The NCAA has not concluded its investigation of the men’s basketball program under Ollie.
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.
Kevin Ollie is accusing UConn of violating his constitutional rights by firing him for cause, thereby avoiding the eight-figure payout that a termination without cause would have demanded.
Per the transcripts obtained by ESPN, Miller was asked: “To your knowledge, has Coach Ollie ever provided benefits or inducements to a recruit?”
Miller initially answered, “No, not to my knowledge,” before he relayed a story from his wife, Yvonne, who had connected with the mother of a recruit who allegedly told her that “[Ollie] had provided her with somewhere in the neighborhood, I think, of $30,000 to make the move from [redacted] to Connecticut and, you know, with that, she was indebted to him, and she would be able to move into an apartment.”
Ollie’s legal team claims the circulation of that claim in media reports affected Ollie’s reputation.
“The defamatory allegation that Coach Ollie paid $30,000 to the mother of a student athlete published widely by the University of Connecticut constitutes not only defamation but also gives rise to the tort of false light invasion of privacy,” the letter said.
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