CINCINNATI — The University of Cincinnati on Saturday put basketball coach John Brannen on paid leave pending an investigation after six Bearcats players decided to transfer last month.
The school announced March 26 that it had launched an investigation amid reports that a rift between Brannen and players had led to the requested transfers. Among the six who entered the transfer portal during a week in March were four members of the 2020 freshman class.
The announcement said Brannen's leave is pending the completion of a review into the men's basketball program at UC.
"The University has always put the welfare of its student-athletes first," John Cunningham, director of UC athletics, said on March 26. "We feel this is an essential step to ensure that all of our athletic programs meet the highest standards."
According to ESPN, Brannen's attorney, Tom Mars, issued a statement and said UC is mishandling the investigation.
"It's been my experience that collegiate ADs are experts at mishandling internal investigations, and this case is no exception," Mars told ESPN. "You don't have to take my word for it. I'm in possession of a communication from within the UC Athletics Department describing the mishandling of this internal investigation in much more descriptive terms. There's no basis for Coach Brannen to have been placed on administrative leave -- much less terminated for cause."
Mars told ESPN he thinks Brannen would deserve his $5.25 million buyout if Cunningham chose to fire him and threatened a lawsuit if UC tries to fire Brannen with cause.
"I'm hopeful, however, that AD Cunningham will wrap up the investigation quickly and reinstate Coach Brannen so that he can continue the great job he's done for Cincinnati basketball," Mars said in his statement to ESPN.
Specifics about any officcial allegations made about the men's basketball program have not been clarified or released. WCPO has reached out to the UC athletic department for clarification on these allegations.
The Bearcats finished 12-11 in Brannen’s second year at Cincinnati after a 20-10 season in 2019-20. He previously coached at Northern Kentucky University.