Cincinnati fired coach John Brannen after allegedly 'jeopardizing' players' safety in workout

Ryan Young
·Writer
·3-min read

Cincinnati accused former basketball coach John Brannen of using methods of intimidation against players, making a payment of special benefits to a player and “jeopardizing or disregarding the well-being, health and safety” of his players, according to documents published on Monday by the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The university, which fired Brannen on April 9, issued him a written reprimand just before the start of the season. Athletic director John Cunningham, per the report, explained the reasoning behind the firing to Brannen in a letter the day that he fired him — which came days after he was placed on administrative leave.

"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 well-being, health and safety of student-athletes, despite written reprimand," Cunningham wrote in the letter, via the Cincinnati 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."

Brannen fired after two seasons

Brannen was fired after just two seasons at Cincinnati. He finished with a 32-21 record and led them to the AAC regular-season title in his first season. The program, however, went only 12-11 last season.

Six players announced this past offseason that they were transferring out of Brannen’s program, four of which were freshmen.

The university did not detail the allegations or reasoning for Brannen’s firing at the time, only saying that it came “after a thorough review of our program.”

The written reprimand came after Brannen reportedly held an “unauthorized conditioning workout” just before the season started that violated Cincinnati’s policies, and that it was "overly strenuous and led to several student-athletes not finishing a timed run and one student-athlete needing to be helped off the court."

According to Cunningham, that practice didn’t end until a trainer stepped in and stopped it due to "concerns for the safety and welfare of the student-athletes,” per the report. One player needed medical care after that practice.

Cunningham placed Brannen on leave on April 3, and then fired him on April 9.

Brannen again denies allegations

Brannen said after he was fired that the weeks leading up to that decision were an “emotional roller coaster” but that he would bring “the true facts to light.”

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He issued another denial of the allegations made against him through his attorney, Tom Mars, on Monday and pledged legal action.

"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," Mars said, via the Cincinnati Enquirer. "We have a lot to say about the reprimand and termination letter, but we’ll let our court filings speak for themselves."

Cincinnati head coach John Brannen
Cincinnati fired coach John Brannen last month after just two seasons. (AP/Ron Jenkins)

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