The University of Connecticut confirmed Friday that its men’s basketball team is under NCAA investigation.
The school is aware of the investigation and will seek counsel by an outside firm.
“The University and its Athletic Department are committed to a culture of compliance with all NCAA regulations,” the school said in a statement. “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 not clear yet whether the program violated any recruiting rules.
“Often times these things take a long time and once the NCAA comes to look at -- even if they come in and look at a small matter — that means they can look at anything they want,” said Jay Bilas, a college basketball analyst for ESPN.
Nikko Cleri, a junior at UConn, said he’s gone to 50 UConn men’s and women’s basketball games in the past few years.
“I think anytime that there’s an investigation, it’s bad for the university,” Cleri said. “But I think it comes at a worse time for Kevin Ollie, just because there’s been so much speculation about what his future is here.”
Ollie is UConn’s head coach. His first season was a wash because the team was ruled ineligible for postseason play by the NCAA. That’s because of low combined academic scores for the team the previous year, when Jim Calhoun coached.
Even though Ollie led the Huskies to its fourth national championship in 2014, they’ve barely contended for one since then. Throughout last season, the team lost more games than it won. That hasn’t happened in 30 years.
Bilas believes the NCAA investigation process is a flawed system that’s hard to understand, which is why universities look for help from the outside.
“Often times you’ll see employees sacrificed before the altar of the NCAA in order to save the institution so they have differing interests at times,” Bilas said. “That’s why outside counsel can be helpful. And really for coaches, having your own counsel can be helpful.”
Cleri, a lifelong fan, said that no matter what happens, fans should stand by the team.
“I think that if something were to happen, yeah, it definitely would have a negative effect, but just going to this school, you still have to have some sort of school pride so you have to stick with them,” Cleri said.
Kevin Ollie is in the second year of a five-year deal. The team is in danger of missing out on the NCAA tournament for a second consecutive year. That hasn’t happened in 30 years.