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NCAA Hands Down Sanctions on UConn Men’s Basketball, Kevin Ollie

The university gets off with mostly minor penalties. Ollie? Not so much.

Ian Bethune/The UConn Blog

The NCAA Committee on Infractions has released its sanctions on the UConn men’s basketball program for violations committed under previous head coach Kevin Ollie.

They are as follows:

  • UConn will be put on two-year probation.
  • All records which involve ineligible student-athletes must be vacated. (2014 title is safe)
  • Reduction of one scholarship for the 2019-20 academic year, which the university has already self-imposed.
  • A $5,000 fine, also self-imposed.
  • Numerous recruiting restrictions. From the NCAA’s release:

- A one-week ban on men’s basketball unofficial visits during the 2018-19 academic year (self-imposed by the university) and a two-week ban during the 2019-20 academic year.

- A one-week ban on recruiting communications in men’s basketball during the 2018-19 academic year (self-imposed by the university).

- A reduction of four men’s basketball recruiting-person days during the 2018-19 (self-imposed by the university) and 2019-20 academic years.

- A one-visit reduction from the permissible number of official visits in men’s basketball during the rolling 2018-19 and 2019-20 two-year period.

While this is not a huge penalty for UConn, Ollie got hit much harder by the NCAA. He received a three-year show cause penalty, which essentially means he will not coach in college basketball for the next three seasons. If he were to be hired during that period, the employing school must “show cause” as to why they should not be punished for hiring him.

According to a Division I Committee on Infractions panel, Ollie “violated NCAA head coach responsibility rules when he failed to monitor his staff and did not promote an atmosphere of compliance.” They also ruled that Ollie lied to or provided misleading information to investigators while also declining a second interview with the NCAA and UConn.

“This case illustrates the importance of full candor and cooperation in the infractions process, as well as head coach control,” the committee said in the release. “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.”

UConn President Susan Herbst and Athletic Director David Benedict both released statements on the NCAA’s decision in a release from the school.

“As we anticipated, this validates UConn’s actions and decision-making in this case from the outset in early 2018 based on our knowledge of NCAA rules and matters of compliance,” Herbst said. “However, this is a serious matter and nothing about it merits celebration. This is an unfortunate chapter in the history of UConn men’s basketball, but it is time to move on. We look forward to the bright future of this program with excitement and optimism.”

”We are looking forward to the future now that this process has come to a conclusion,” Benedict said. ”Compliance and academic success are the paramount goals for our athletics program under our leadership. UConn’s actions in this case were consistent with those values, and we will continue to adhere to highest standards of compliance and NCAA rules going forward.”

Three situations are the basis of the NCAA’s punishment on both UConn and Ollie: Pickup games involving student managers, a video coordinator acting like a coach, and impermissible benefits given to student-athletes by a booster.

Over a period four years, the men’s basketball team’s student managers attended off-season pickup games by the players to keep track of statistics, which were then given to the coaching staff. While there are no limits on pickup games for student-athletes, the presence of managers turned those into “countable athletically related activity,” which means they became official team workouts in the eyes of the NCAA. Because they happened two to four times per week, that “exceeded the allowable amount of activity.”

Next, UConn’s former video coordinator would break down film with players, which the NCAA determined to be above his responsibility. This made the coordinator a counted coach in the NCAA’s eyes, putting the Huskies over the allowed number of coaches.

The final point revolves around Derreck Hamilton, a trainer and friend of Ollie’s. The NCAA says Hamilton became a booster and gave three student-athletes (Jalen Adams, Terry Larrier are likely two of them) on- and off-campus training sessions for free. For the off-campus sessions, Hamilton “provided free lodging, meals, transportation and access to a private gym.”

While Ollie denied knowledge of these workouts, the NCAA said multiple people confirmed the coach did know.

Other violations the NCAA found include recruiting violations regarding contact between a recruit and former professional basketball player, impermissible benefits to recruits and their families as well as exceeded the allowable number of “recruiting-person days.”

Ultimately, the NCAA came down hard on Ollie for failing to cooperate with their investigation. The violations for the pickup games involving managers are borderline laughable while the video coordinator’s actions are far from egregious. The booster violations are far more serious but, again, it seems the NCAA was more scorned by Ollie’s non-cooperation.

UConn’s penalties are mostly minor and won’t affect the university beyond the 2019-20 academic year.

UPDATE

Ollie’s attorney has released a statement on the decision: