Fired men's basketball coach John Brannen sues Cincinnati. Here's what's in the filing.

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After being fired after just two seasons, former University of Cincinnati men's basketball coach John Brannen on Friday sued the university, its athletic director and its president.

Brannen, who was fired April 9, filed the federal lawsuit Friday against UC, UC Director of Athletics John Cunningham and UC President Neville G. Pinto, seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages and the more than $5 million buyout he says he's due. He also is asking for a jury trial.

The complaint claims "during the course of purportedly investigating, suspending, and terminating Coach Brannen 'for cause,' Defendants deprived him of his constitutionally protected procedural and substantive due process rights."

The suit says Brannen's suspension with pay, which began April 3, and his subsequent termination were 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."

John Brannen was fired as Cincinnati's coach on April 9.
John Brannen was fired as Cincinnati's coach on April 9.

According to the lawsuit, Brannen learned that Tyler Stuart, the program's former strength coach, had "orchestrated a hushed smear campaign, fabricating and distorting" things Brannen may have said and done, and was "spreading malicious lies" about him. The complaint also says Stuart was not just "emboldened" and "encouraged" by Cunningham to engage in such conduct and behavior "in his quest to find as much 'dirt' as he could" about Brannen.

Cunningham was unavailable for comment.

MORE: Both sides digging in deep following Brannen's dismissal

MORE: Cincinnati reported violation committed by ex-coach to NCAA

Cunningham's decision to terminate Brannen came two weeks after Cunningham announced the university was reviewing unspecified allegations related to Brannen and the men's basketball program after six of Brannen's players entered the transfer portal.

Two of the players, sophomore guards Mike Saunders Jr. and Mason Madsen, have since elected to return to Cincinnati to play for newly hired head coach Wes Miller. Cunningham officially hired Miller from UNC Greensboro on April 15.

MORE: Wes Miller introduced as new Cincinnati men's basketball coach

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Brannen's attorney, Tom Mars, has said he believes "Cunningham’s intentions in arranging the ouster of John Brannen were based on his desire to hire a 'higher profile' basketball coach by reneging on UC’s promise to pay an agreed-upon buyout and stiffing John Brannen to the tune of $5.25 million (Brannen's buyout),"

After being fired, Brannen said he was "disappointed with this decision for a long list of reasons, but mostly because it was made long before the university even commenced its 'investigation' into the basketball program." Brannen said he "looked forward to the opportunity to bring the true facts to light."

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UC has provided scant details about the investigation, including who conducted it and what they were paid to perform it. "The University has no final investigation report regarding the termination of head men’s basketball coach John Brannen to provide at this time," UC officials told The Enquirer on Monday.

In Cunningham's April 9 termination letter to Brannen, which was obtained May 3 by The Enquirer under Ohio's Open Records Act, Cunningham charged that Brannen "made, attempted, arranged or otherwise made payment for special benefits for a student-athlete other than through approved channels" and accused Brannen, among other transgressions, of using methods of intimidation against players and jeopardizing or disregarding the well-being, health and safety of his players.

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UC reported to the NCAA on May 12 that Brannen, whom Cunningham suspended with pay April 3, committed a violation when he "arranged for outside counseling appointments" and paid for mental health care for an unnamed player, according to documents obtained by The Enquirer on Monday.

The violation occurred when Brannen used his personal credit card to pay $135 (the previous balance due of $105, plus a $30 co-pay) for a Nov. 19, 2020, appointment, according to the documents.

Mars revealed the $135 payment on May 4.

MORE: Details: Brannen was reprimanded months before firing

Cunningham discovered the violation on April 2, a week before firing Brannen, during the course of a review of the men's basketball program, according to the documents.

Brannen's firing was preceded by a written reprimand months earlier. The written reprimand, which was in response to an Oct. 6, 2020, practice that Cunningham deemed "overly strenuous," and termination letter were included in a group of documents previously obtained by The Enquirer.

UC hired Brannen in April 2019, eight months before Cunningham took over as Cincinnati's athletic director. Brannen spent the previous four seasons at Northern Kentucky University.

The Bearcats went 32-21 in Brannen's two seasons. Cincinnati finished 12-11 last season and failed to advance to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2010.

This article originally appeared on Cincinnati Enquirer: John Brannen: Former Bearcats men's basketball coach sues Cincinnati