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Arbitrator rules UConn improperly fired Huskies men's basketball coach Kevin Ollie

STORRS, Conn. -- An independent arbitrator has ruled that UConn improperly fired former men's basketball coach Kevin Ollie and must pay him more than $11 million, Ollie's lawyer said Thursday.

Attorney Jacques Parenteau called Thursday's ruling from arbitrator Mark Irvings a "total vindication" for Ollie, who was fired in the spring of 2018 after the school reported numerous NCAA violations in his program.

Irvings ruled that Ollie is due $11,157,032.95 within the next 10 business days, Parenteau said.

UConn said in a statement that it "vigorously disagrees" with the arbitrator's decision.

The Huskies were placed on probation for two years and Ollie was sanctioned individually for those violations, which occurred between 2013 and 2018.

Parenteau said the arbitrator's ruling shows that those NCAA sanctions were "erroneous and unfounded."

"This arbitration clearly established -- after 33 days of hearings and the testimony and cross examination of actual witnesses under oath -- that Kevin Ollie did not violate the NCAA rules that were used to justify the draconian sanctions imposed on him,'' Parenteau and co-counsel William Madsen said in a statement. "The arbitrator correctly found that there was no just cause to terminate Kevin Ollie's employment as the head coach of an NCAA basketball team.''

UConn said the ruling stated only that UConn should have waited for the NCAA's decision before firing Ollie and said it strongly disagrees with that decision, saying it did not have "the luxury of waiting more than a year before terminating Ollie for the misconduct the university was aware he had engaged in.''

"The arbitrator's decision is nonsensical and seriously impedes the university's ability to manage its athletics program,'' the university said in a statement. "It also sends a signal to other coaches in Connecticut that they may ignore NCAA rules with impunity and continue to be employed and paid.''

The school did not say whether it would seek to have the award vacated, an outcome Parenteau said is extremely rare in these types of arbitrations.

Parenteau said that Ollie, a former UConn point guard who guided the Huskies to a national championship in 2014 and a 127-79 record in six seasons as head coach, issued a statement thanking his legal team and the union that supported him.

"In closing, I wish to assure the University of Connecticut community, my alma mater and an institution that has meant so much to me over the years, that the university will always have a special place in my heart and will always be a part of my family,'' Ollie's statement said.

Parenteau and Madsen had argued that UConn failed to meet its burden under an agreement between the school and the American Association of University Professors, of which Ollie is a member. That agreement required a showing of serious misconduct to fire an employee for "just cause" and affords Ollie other union protections.

The school had argued that Ollie's transgressions were serious and that his individual contract superseded those union protections.

Ollie, who faced three years of restrictions from the NCAA on becoming a college basketball coach again, is currently coaching for Overtime Elite, a league that prepares top prospects who are not attending college for the pros.

The ruling comes one day after UConn's athletic department reported that its budget deficit rose from $43.5 million to $47.2 million in the 2021 fiscal year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.