The University of Connecticut’s men’s basketball program is under an NCAA mandated investigation for rules violations. The university has not officially announced the reason for the inquiry; however, internal sources have informed media outlets that the focus
regards to recruiting.
UConn President Susan Herbst confirmed the NCAA’s inquiry into the program and assured that the university will fully comply with the investigation.
“UConn is absolutely committed to a culture of compliance and intends to fully cooperate, as always, with the NCAA,” Herbst said in a statement. “We will do so in a thorough and transparent manner reflective of the model athletic and academic institution we continually strive to be.”
Similarly, head coach Kevin Ollie has not provided any information beyond the confirmation of the investigation and acknowledgment of the university’s compliance. Following a blowout loss to conference rival Temple University on Jan. 28, Ollie claimed that the program’s priority of athletic excellence, regardless of the underperforming season, has not been inhibited.
“With regard to the inquiry directed at our men’s basketball program, I want to express that we will cooperate fully with NCAA as this process moves forward as we are committed to promoting an atmosphere of compliance with NCAA regulations,” Ollie said in a statement. “As we head into the final weeks of the season, our total focus will be on helping our team improve and reach its highest potential. To that end, we have no further comment on this matter.”
This is not the first time the program has undergone investigation for its recruiting practices. Prior to Ollie’s tenure, the 2011 to 2012 season marked the start of a three-year probation for the program due to the discovery of text messages, phone calls and financial incentives that were exchanged between program representatives and recruits in a noncompliant manner. As a result, the NCAA placed sanctions on UConn, which included scholarship reductions, a booster dissociation and a three-conference game suspension of former head coach Jim Calhoun. Although the program has a history of improper recruiting practices, there appears to be no association between Calhoun’s case and the ongoing investigation.
In an effort to comply, the university has retained its contract with the Alabama-based law firm, Lightfoot, Franklin & White to serve as an external legal consultant for the investigation. The firm has a history of working with collegiate athletic programs, notably with top tier programs such as the University of Southern California, Texas A&M University and Ohio State University in NCAA cases related to similar compliance matters. This is not the first investigation that the law firm has represented UConn in, as the two parties worked together in the FBI’s fall 2017 investigation into the corrupt practices of numerous college basketball programs.
In respect to the subject of NCAA compliance, NYU Senior Associate Director of Athletics Janice Quinn confirmed that NYU complies with all policies set by the NCAA.
“As for NYU rules compliance, as a member of the NCAA, New York University complies with all aspects of that organization’s constitution and bylaws,” Quinn said. “These are set forth in the NCAA Manual and cover the entire scope of intercollegiate competition including, but not limited to: A. Principles for the conduct of intercollegiate athletics B. Ethical conduct C. Conduct and employment of athletics personnel D. Amateurism E. Recruiting guidelines and restrictions F. Eligibility: Academic and general G. Awards, benefits and expenses allowed for student-athletes H. Playing and practice season allowances and restrictions.”
As of now, nothing more can be said about the investigation beyond its inquiry into recruiting violations. NCAA bylaws require all universities to keep investigations confidential as part of their compliance. For the near future, UConn will finish the remainder of its uncharacteristically poor season with the investigation looming in the background. If finished before or shortly after season’s end, any sanctions placed on the program will most likely be implemented for the 2018 to 2019 season.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 5 print edition. Email Warner Radliff at [email protected]