13 March 2018

UConn's Ollie challenges "just cause" termination

Michael A. Rueda
Partner | Head of US Sports and Entertainment | US

On March 10th, the University of Connecticut announced that it was firing Head Men's Basketball Coach, Kevin Ollie. Despite winning a National Championship in 2014, the firing was not a surprise to Husky fans. UConn had suffered its second straight losing season. However, UConn subsequently announced that it was initiating disciplinary procedure to terminate Ollie's employment for “just cause” and not just the program's recent poor performance. Recent reports indicate that a “just cause” termination would allow UConn to avoid paying Ollie the roughly $10 million to which he is entitled under his current contract. UConn is currently the subject of a pending NCAA inquiry into its basketball program. UConn's “just cause” termination announcement did not include any specific reference to the NCAA investigation, which was interesting. Ollie responded to the firing by announcing that he would contest the firing through his union, the American Association of University Professors, and by stating that he has “always diligently promoted an atmosphere of compliance for all involved in the program, directly or indirectly.” Given the nature of the termination, Ollie is forced to challenge the firing. Ollie must fight to ensure he receives the payment to which he is entitled under his contract and mitigate the reputational impact resulting from a “for cause” termination during a pending NCAA investigation. UConn's actions certainly raise questions. The NCAA has not publicly charged UConn with any wrongdoing and UConn has not publicly accepted responsibility for any wrongdoing. With the firing of Ollie, however, the University has now implied that whatever transpired during Ollie's tenure was significant enough to justify his termination for “just cause”. UConn's position regarding Ollie's termination could potentially constitute a “bad fact” when defending itself in the NCAA's investigation, unless UConn plans on placing the blame entirely on Ollie and his coaching staff. https://deadspin.com/kevin-ollie-will-contest-uconns-dubious-non-specific-1823682657

Michael A. Rueda Partner | Head of US Sports and Entertainment | New York

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