Former UConn Head Basketball Coach Claims Racial Discrimination in Firing

Former University of Connecticut men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie has filed a lawsuit against the university claiming racial discrimination played a part in his firing.

Ollie was fired by UConn in March "for cause," according to the university, which would allow the school to withhold $10 million left on his contract. The school later released documents outlining alleged NCAA violations under Ollie. 

The former coach denied the allegations and challenged the termination. He and the university are in the midst of grievance-arbitration under the collective bargaining agreement. 

In a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court Monday, Ollie’s legal team claims racial discrimination, and that Ollie was treated differently from former coach Jim Calhoun, who wasn't fired despite incurring recruiting violations. The complaint also said that the school was trying to prevent Ollie from filing a complaint by threatening to pull out of that arbitration.

“Defendant has maintained that, if Plaintiff files a complaint of discrimination with an administrative agency such as the EEOC, or files a complaint of discrimination in a judicial forum, Defendant will refuse to proceed with the contractual grievance-arbitration process that is currently underway between Plaintiff and his union, and Defendant,” the complaint reads.

The university has consistently maintained that the firing was in regards to the alleged NCAA violations.

“As UConn has stated from the outset, the university terminated Kevin Ollie’s employment due to violations of NCAA rules, pursuant to his employment agreement. Any claim to the contrary is without merit,” school spokesperson Stephanie Reitz told NBC Connecticut by email Tuesday.

Ollie was in the second year of a five-year $17.9-million contract that could be voided for "just cause," the Associated Press reports. In 2017, he was the second-highest paid state employee, earning $2.8 million, according to public payroll data. 

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