Already under fire since his team is likely to miss the NCAA tournament for the third time in four years, UConn men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie now faces another pressing problem.
Ollie’s proud program has received a notice of inquiry from the NCAA, the school confirmed Thursday night.
Longtime columnist Jeff Jacobs of Hearst Connecticut Media reported that some, if not all, of the NCAA investigation involves areas of recruiting. The exact nature of the inquiry is unclear at this point since UConn officials aren’t offering any further specifics.
“The NCAA has notified UConn of an inquiry into its men’s basketball program,” UConn’s statement reads. “We are working closely with the NCAA’s enforcement division as they conduct this inquiry.
“The University and its Athletic Department are committed to a culture of compliance with all NCAA regulations. We will appropriately address and respond to this inquiry and continue cooperating fully with the NCAA as this process moves forward. Until that time, we will have no further comment.”
It’s difficult to evaluate what this means for UConn without knowing more about the seriousness of the allegations, but it’s safe to assume the NCAA poking around is not good news for Ollie. This is the last thing he needs at a time when many Huskies supporters have lost faith that he is the right coach to succeed the legendary Jim Calhoun.
Ollie won a national championship in his second season as UConn coach thanks to Calhoun holdovers Ryan Boatwright and Shabazz Napier, but he has been unable to follow that with a second meaningful NCAA tournament run. The move to the American Athletic Conference has hampered recruiting and fan support and injuries and defections have also hurt but Ollie has also typically been unable to get the most out of his roster on offense.
The longterm ramifications of the NCAA’s inquiry could be significant for Ollie if UConn is looking for a way out of his the contract extension he signed before last season. Ollie’s contract states it can be voided for “just cause,” which would include NCAA violations committed by him, a member of his coaching staff or one of his players.
It’s premature to debate whether UConn would void Ollie’s contract without knowing more about the alleged violations the NCAA is investigating.
The only thing that’s crystal clear right now is that a tough season for Ollie is now got even rougher.
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