John Brannen is suing the University of Cincinnati less than two months after the former men’s basketball coach was fired.
The Enquirer reported that Brannen, who was fired April 9 after two years coaching the Bearcats, filed a federal lawsuit Friday against the university, as well as president Neville G. Pinto and athletic director John Cunningham. The former coach is asking for a jury trial while seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages and a $5.25 million buyout.
Brannen was suspended with April 3, three weeks after the Bearcats wrapped up a 12-11 season and soon after six Bearcats entered the transfer portal. The lawsuit says that Brannen’s firing was the result of a “sham ‘investigation’ that was unfair, unreliable and inherently flawed and nothing more than a smokescreen to avoid triggering a contractual buyout clause that would have cost the University millions of dollars." The complaint also alleges that former Cincinnati basketball strength coach Tyler Stuart orchestrated a smear campaign against Brannen.
According to The Enquirer, the lawsuit claims "defendants not only intentionally failed and refused to provide Coach Brannen adequate notice of the allegations against him, but also denied Coach Brannen a meaningful opportunity to rebut those charges, formally respond to any allegations, and otherwise clear his name before the results of the incomplete 'investigation' were published and his employment was terminated 'for cause' via a letter purporting to summarize the findings of such 'investigation.'"
Cincinnati hired former UNC Greensboro coach Wes Miller as its next coach in April.
The Enquirer obtained documents earlier this month that showed that Cincinnati reprimanded Brannen in November 2020, weeks before the start of the season.
"While the University's investigation into your conduct is ongoing and therefore other grounds for termination may become evident, it is clear at this point, among other things, you have failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance within the Men's Basketball Program with respect to rules, regulations and policies and have further jeopardized and/or disregarded the wellbeing, health and safety of student-athletes, despite written reprimand," Cunningham wrote in his termination letter to Brannen according to a document obtained by The Enquirer.
"Moreover, you have made, attempted, arranged or otherwise made payment for special benefits for a student-athlete other than through approved channels; intimidated and/or attempted to intimidate students from raising proper compliance concerns; as you have previously been notified, running one or more practices without proper precautions for player health and safety and repeatedly violated time management plan policies; and not been forthcoming with the University regarding your actions."
"The decision to terminate Coach Brannen and the stated reasons given in the termination letter were all part of a pre-determined plan by John Cunningham to replace Coach Brannen without paying him the buyout compensation [more than $5 million] that Cincinnati owed him but couldn’t afford to pay," Tom Mars, Brannen’s attorney, said last week. "We have a lot to say about the reprimand and termination letter, but we’ll let our court filings speak for themselves."
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