Kevin Ollie was let go as Connecticut’s head basketball coach in March. The former Huskies point guard led his alma mater to the 2014 national championship but went 30-35 with no NCAA Tournament appearances over the past two seasons.
At the time of his dismissal, Connecticut claimed it fired Ollie for “just cause.” The school was named in the ongoing FBI investigation into college basketball’s recruiting practices — but that news was announced in late January, and Ollie wasn’t fired until March 10, two days after the Huskies’ season ended.
Ollie’s camp has claimed the “for cause” firing is nothing more than an ex post facto attempt to get out of its $10 million buyout owed to Ollie — and they’re invoking the U.S. Constitution to argue their side.
“From our review of the facts and circumstances relating to Coach Ollie’s employment status, it is apparent that the University of Connecticut has already violated [Coach Ollie’s] rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution by subverting Coach Ollie’s opportunity to respond to charges and evidence in a meaningful way in advance of the decision to terminate his employment,” Ollie’s lawyers wrote in a letter to UConn president Susan Herbst, obtained by ESPN.
“The public record, action taken, and authorized communications by representatives of the University of Connecticut, demonstrate that the decision to terminate Coach Ollie has already been made and therefore the University of Connecticut has effectively negated Coach Ollie’s property right protected by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”
The 14th amendment protects each citizen’s right to due process.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Ollie’s contract includes standard language that requires him to promote and uphold “an atmosphere of compliance,” which Ollie says he obliged. UConn has not been hit with a Notice of Allegations from the NCAA, though such a notice could (obviously) be forthcoming.
The case between UConn and Ollie is an interesting one this case, along with Pitt’s firing of former basketball coach Kevin Stallings, could establish precedent in which schools can use “for cause” justifications to fire coaches for performance and, thus, wrangle themselves out of the 7- and 8-figure buyouts contractually obligated to said coaches.