Sunday, December 5

Brannen Challenges Cincinnati Firing “for a Cause”; look for purchase on demand

It’s been 229 days since John Brannen last led a basketball game with the Cincinnati Bearcats, 203 days since the university demanded that he never coach another, and just 27 days since he and his legal team dropped the lawsuit they had filed. in federal court against UC. , its president and sports director. The Bearcats have been preparing with new coach Wes Miller for their opening game on November 9 against Evansville.

All of this suggests that the two parts are finished, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.

In fact, your interaction as exes could last longer than the entire employer-employee agreement.

That will largely depend on how the university responds to a new legal action brought by Brannen’s attorneys in the Ohio Claims Court alleging that UC violated its contract with Brannen “when it fabricated cause” to avoid paying him the purchase required by your deal.

DECOURCY: One on one with Coach K before his final season.

Brannen’s legal team withdrew the case from federal court for strategic reasons, but will continue with the Claims Court lawsuit seeking $ 5.25 million that they claim is owed to him for the term of his contract, as well as interest, costs. and “any additional relief that may be necessary.” fair and proper, ”says the suit.

Brannen’s attorney, Tom Mars, told Sporting News that his client has two goals in filing the lawsuit. “One is getting the money they owe you, and two is … I hate saying ‘clear your name’, because I don’t think there is such a thing as clearing your name, but demonstrating to the satisfaction of any potential future employers that you didn’t actually abuse of his players and he didn’t actually violate NCAA rules. “

Through a spokesman, Cincinnati Athletic Director John Cunningham declined Sporting News’ request to discuss the lawsuit.

Brannen coached the Bearcats for two seasons, winning a portion of the American Athletic Conference regular season title in 2019-20 and reaching the AAC tournament championship game in 2020-21. He compiled a record of 32-20. The first season ended with the COVID-19 pandemic and the second was shortened to 23 games for the same reason.

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On March 26, less than two weeks after losing to Houston in the AAC title game, and after six players decided to enter the NCAA transfer portal, UC announced that it was beginning “a review of the allegations related to his men’s basketball program. ” In the statement, Cunningham said, “The university has always put the well-being of its student-athletes first.” Brannen was put on leave on April 3. He was fired on April 9.

In the dismissal letter to Brannen, Cunningham wrote that the coach “failed to promote an atmosphere of compliance… with respect to rules, regulations and policies and has further jeopardized and / or disregarded well-being, health and safety. of student-athletes.

“In addition, you have made, attempted, arranged, or made payments for special benefits for a student-athlete other than through approved channels.”

Brannen has since had neither a job nor a salary. This could be seen as part of a new trend in hiring and firing college athletic coaches.

In March 2018, the University of Pittsburgh presented basketball coach Kevin Stallings with the option of being fired for a cause or accepting a purchase of approximately half of the $ 9 million owed to him, according to radio station 93.7 The Fan. . Stallings refused to accept either one. In the end, the school and Stallings resolved their dispute, but Pitt reported a series of Level II violations that resulted in the coach receiving a three-year show of cause order in a “negotiated resolution” between the school and the NCAA.

DECOURCY: Former Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins has a maddening idea

In November 2019, Kansas fired football coach David Beaty, but withheld the $ 3 million owed to him on a purchase while possible violations of NCAA rules were examined. Seven months later, KU and Beaty agreed on the sum of $ 2.55 million. Beaty’s attorney said that at the time it probably cost Kansas more, between the settlement and the attorney’s fees, than the university had simply paid Beaty for the term of his contract.

In January 2021, Tennessee fired football coach Jeremy Pruitt for good cause after alleging multiple recruiting violations by staff and withheld the remaining $ 12.6 million on his contract. Pruitt threatens to sue the school if the two parties cannot reach an agreement.

Brannen’s lawsuit takes a detailed look at the action of various players who entered the transfer portal after the 2021-22 season and states that “Cunningham used his dissatisfaction as an opportunity to replace coach Brannen with his own choice and tried to make that opportunity was a free one for UC making up pretextual reasons for termination. ”The lawsuit says the Bearcats were still returning the three student-athletes who had played the most minutes in 2020-21 and that guard David DeJulius, who played 19 games before opting out for the remainder of the season, he “felt so strongly that coach Brannen was being unfairly portrayed in the media that he asked for a meeting” with Cunningham.

The lawsuit mentions two main circumstances as part of the “cause” for which Brannen was fired. One was a reprimand issued to Brannen in November 2020 for conducting an “unauthorized conditioning session” the previous month.

On that occasion, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, Brannen had players take free throws at the end of a 2-hour practice and, if they failed to hit an acceptable number of successful attempts, execute timed sprints. Those who did not finish on time were ordered to run again. Finally, a coach intervened and ordered the session to be stopped. One player finally required medical attention. Cunningham acknowledged that the players received adequate water breaks and wore heart monitors during exercise.

This type of exercise has been a routine in Division I basketball practices for decades.

Brannen accepted responsibility for what happened, however, and was never reprimanded for overly strenuous practices.

“The safeguards that Coach Brannen took and his professional judgment that exercise would strengthen his players ‘determination to improve their game refutes any characterization of their conduct as’ intentionally, negatively, and materially impacting (ing) the well-being of a student-athlete. ‘”says the suit.

The other element involved Brannen paying $ 135 for one of his players to be treated by a mental health professional outside of UC’s sports medicine department during the pandemic. This circumstance was mentioned in Brannen’s dismissal letter. The lawsuit said Brannen “never hid what he had done” and did not believe he had violated an NCAA rule.

Mars told Sporting News that by invoking the NCAA allegation in the termination letter, UC violated its contract with Brannen. “There is a provision in the contract that says: if we fire you for violations of the NCAA, or violations of university rules and policies, we have to give you a hearing, and before the hearing we have to interview any witnesses who ask us. interview and we have to look at all the documents you want us to review before making a decision. ”Such a hearing did not occur.

“They got checkmate, in my opinion, right there,” Mars said.

Mars believes this lawsuit will help obtain information that will help Brannen find another college coaching job before the next hiring cycle begins in March.

However, there is no 30-second shot clock for the court system.

“As you and I know, and as John definitely knows from personal experience by now, these situations tarnish a coach that has financial implications that go far beyond his purchase,” Mars told SN.

“The facts of this case, I know I’m John’s attorney, so I don’t expect them to take it as gospel, but honestly, I don’t take cases without examining them very carefully from the start. I don’t take cases that I think I’m going to lose, and I haven’t lost one in a long, long, long time. “

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