Former Connecticut men's basketball coach Kevin Ollie has filed a complaint against the university in federal court, alleging it illegally attempted to stop him from filing a racial discrimination claim stemming from his firing in March.
The complaint, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Hartford, claims Ollie was subject to "disparate treatment" compared with his predecessor and former coach Jim Calhoun.
Ollie alleges that Calhoun, the Hall of Fame coach who won three national titles at UConn, managed to keep his job despite committing NCAA violations more serious than those Ollie was accused of and that were used to justify his firing last spring.
"Calhoun ... was found to have engaged in conduct in violation of NCAA rules and regulations following an investigation conducted by the NCAA and Defendant in 2011 and 2012 that was more severe than the conduct which Defendant has identified as the basis for its decision to terminate Plaintiff's employment, but Defendant never terminated the employment of Jim Calhoun," reads the complaint.
"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," university spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said in an email. "Any claim to the contrary is without merit."
In UConn athletic director David Benedict's termination letter to Ollie, Benedict accused the coach of 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."
The complaint says that after Ollie told UConn he planned to file a racial discrimination claim, the university refused to continue with the "contractual-grievance arbitration process" that would determine its financial obligations to Ollie -- $10 million he believes he's owed according to his contract.
Ollie had until Monday to file a complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, according to the complaint. His claim, known as "emergency injunctive relief," seeks to allow him to proceed with his discrimination claim while also continuing the arbitration process with the university.
Jim Parenteau, an attorney representing Ollie in the case, said Tuesday's filing is not about racial discrimination but about Ollie's rights. He said Ollie's request to proceed with both the arbitration and federal cases is customary in comparable legal situations.
"What we're asking for is in no way out of the ordinary," Parenteau said. "We're not making any particular claim at this time and the fact of the matter is they don't want Kevin to have these rights. They don't want Kevin to make these claims. It's retaliatory. ... It's really disappointing that they forced us to go to federal court."
A former UConn star and NBA player, Ollie returned to his alma mater as an assistant under Calhoun in 2010 and took over as head coach in 2012 when Calhoun announced his retirement. In his first season in 2012-13, the Huskies were ineligible for the postseason as a result of an NCAA ban related to the program's poor academic performance. Ollie and the Huskies won the school's fourth national championship the next season.
But the Huskies advanced to the NCAA tournament only once more over his next four years, and Ollie was ultimately fired shortly after Connecticut lost to a short-handed SMU squad in the American Athletic Conference tournament opening round, sealing a 14-18 record and the second consecutive sub-.500 season of his tenure.
In September, the NCAA levied an unethical-conduct charge against Ollie and accused him of other violations that could lead to a lengthy show-cause penalty. The most severe claim alleged that Ollie provided false or misleading information about phone calls between NBA legend Ray Allen, San Antonio Spurs guard Rudy Gay -- both UConn alums -- and a top recruit.
Ollie has repeatedly denied he intentionally committed any NCAA violations.
ESPN's Myron Medcalf contributed to this report.