The NCAA has levied an unethical conduct charge against former Connecticut men's basketball coach Kevin Ollie and other violations that could lead to a lengthy show-cause penalty, six months after the university fired him for just cause.
The most severe claim, per the initial notice of allegations sent to Ollie and the school on Friday that was obtained by ESPN, is a Level I unethical conduct charge for Ollie, who the NCAA alleges provided false or misleading information about phone calls between NBA legend Ray Allen, San Antonio Spurs guard Rudy Gay and a top recruit.
The NCAA also said Ollie falsely denied he had knowledge of professional trainer and friend Derek Hamilton's workouts with players.
Per the initial notice of allegations, Ollie was charged with multiple violations (providing unfair recruiting benefits, exceeding limits on practice times, failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance, failing to monitor players' outside workouts) that would all fall under a coaching responsibility violation.
Ollie is specifically accused of arranging a five-star recruit's phone calls with Allen and Gay; having impermissible contact with a recruit; providing impermissible meals to a pair of recruits during unofficial visits; shooting with a recruit during an unofficial visit; failing to monitor Hamilton, who the NCAA alleged violated rules by training UConn players on campus and near his home in Atlanta; and giving Hamilton tickets to a UConn-South Florida football game, an NCAA violation because Hamilton's son was a recruitable prospect at the time, per the NCAA.
The university was not cited as a culprit in the notice of allegations.
"The NCAA's notice of allegations is part of a process we have been expecting," the university said in a statement. "We believe its allegations are consistent with our original, internal findings and our joint investigative work with the enforcement staff. We maintain that the actions we have taken to date remain appropriate and consistent with the type, nature, and severity of the levied allegations.
"While the allegations are a disappointment for the university, our student-athletes and coaches, and certainly all of UConn Nation, we believe strongly that we have made difficult yet appropriate decisions intended to protect the accountability, integrity, and success of our athletic program now and well into the future."
Connecticut athletic director David Benedict's termination letter to Ollie in March detailed a "failure to promote compliance, failure to timely report instances of non-compliance, intentional participation in impermissible on-campus activity with a prospective student-athlete and a representative of the University's athletic interests for recruiting purposes."
Ollie has repeatedly denied he intentionally committed any NCAA violations during his time at UConn, where he won a national championship in 2014. He's still awaiting an arbitration hearing with the university as he continues his fight for the $10 million he believes he's owed according to his contract.
"It is not a surprise that the Notice of Allegations mimics the University of Connecticut's position in the arbitration as there is every reason to believe that the NCAA would support its member," Jacques Parenteau, Ollie's attorney, said in a statement. "However, an allegation is not proof of anything, it's just an allegation. When the time comes to prove what actually happened, we will show that Coach Ollie did nothing to justify UConn's failure to pay him the money that is due him by contract."
A source close to the investigation said multiple witnesses have refuted the NCAA's claims that a call between Allen and a recruit was prearranged.
Hamilton said the NCAA is lying about his involvement with the team. He admitted he worked out with a pair of players on campus but said those players had exhausted their eligibility. He also admitted to training three players in Atlanta two years ago for no cost, a violation of NCAA rules. Hamilton said he had a prior relationship with one of the players, who arranged the training sessions in Atlanta.
But he said he thought he was helping the three players save money by housing them and providing meals during their trip, not committing NCAA violations that would harm Ollie, a longtime friend. Hamilton also said Ollie didn't know he was training the three players because he was overseas on vacation with his family at the time. He also talked to the players' parents before their trip, he said.
Hamilton said he never talked to Ollie about the workouts. He said the players didn't want their coaches knowing they were going to Atlanta to have fun and work out a few days a week.
"I didn't feel like I had to tell Kevin anything because these [are] some grown-ass men and the summer's coming," Hamilton said when asked why he didn't contact Ollie.
He also said his son had not been recruited by South Florida when Ollie gave them tickets to attend the UConn-South Florida football game.
Former assistant Glen Miller, the most critical witness to the NCAA and Connecticut, told investigators about alleged violations that Ollie or other staffers committed before Miller was dismissed in 2017. He told investigators that Danny Griffin, the team's former director of player development and a friend of Ollie's, violated rules of his job, a non-recruiting role, by making contact with a prospect at a high school game in 2014 with Ollie present.
Griffin told ESPN, however, that he wasn't at that high school game because his sister was dying of cancer at the time, so he was with her in a hospital. He said Miller, who told investigators the mother of a player informed his wife that Ollie had arranged payments for her family, had a vendetta against Ollie because the coach "ruined his life" when he fired him.
Griffin said he'll prove as much as the process unfolds.
"Well, he got fired," Griffin said. "If he didn't get fired, then the ball keeps rolling until, ultimately, the whole staff would have been let go. I have text messages from Glen asking me about recruiting, asking me for information, asking me for phone numbers. He's the one that needs to be investigated. I have correspondence from him that I'm ready to show."
The NCAA recently adopted the Commission on College Basketball's recommendations, which included a more thorough enforcement process that will add more independent voices to the panels that make key decisions on violations. But the Condoleezza Rice-led group also recommended, and the NCAA adopted, an enforcement model that makes lifetime bans a possible result for coaches who've broken the rules or refused to fully cooperate with an investigation.
Ollie has 90 days to respond before the process continues. The Committee on Infractions will make the final declaration about the allegations and punishments after gathering information from officials at UConn, members of the enforcement staff and Ollie. Ollie can appeal the COI's decision, too.
It's also important to note the NCAA's process is separate from the arbitration process Ollie is also involved with as he pursues the eight-figure sum he believes the university owes him. That arbitration hearing could commence in the coming months.
"Coach Kevin Ollie is credited with restoring integrity to the UConn men's basketball program and promoting an atmosphere of compliance with NCAA rules following a period that included the team's suspension from tournament play," Parenteau said. "Under Ollie's leadership, the men's basketball program has had among the highest scores in the nation for academic performance. A complete turnaround.
"Coach Ollie strongly disputes the details of the allegations made in the NCAA's notice and is disappointed that the NCAA has chosen to align itself with the University of Connecticut in the pending arbitration. Coach Ollie denies engaging in any conduct that would constitute non-compliance with NCAA rules and regulations and looks forward to defending himself and restoring his reputation."