NCAA Basketball: Northern Kentucky at Cincinnati

Cincinnati is firing men's basketball coach John Brannen less than a week after placing him on paid administrative leave amid a university review of the program, the school announced Friday. The school first announced its review of allegations involving the program late last month.

"This afternoon, we informed Men's Basketball Head Coach John Brannen that he has been relieved of his duties effective immediately," a statement from UC Athletic Director John Cunningham said. "Tim Morris will serve as interim Head Coach while we conduct a comprehensive nationwide search for a new leader of our men's basketball program.

"The decision to move in a new direction comes after a thorough review of our program, which included conversations with student-athletes, coaches and staff, as well as with Coach Brannen. Ultimately, the University is acting in the best interest of our student-athletes and of the institution, and this decision is reflective of our commitment to both, as well as to our values that we hold dear. As this is as a personnel matter, we are unable to provide further details of the program review or the decision.

"We will work quickly but judiciously in finding a new head coach. With a passionate fan base, strong tradition and history, elite facilities, and a collective commitment to success, we are confident that we will have a deep pool of candidates. We will continue to engage with and support our student-athletes during this transition."

Brannen just completed his second season with the Bearcats, and though he led the team to an appearance in the AAC Tournament title game, Cincinnati lost 91-54 to Houston in the game to cap an otherwise lackluster season by the program's standards. The Bearcats finished 12-11 and lost five straight games between mid-December and early January. They also dealt with COVID-19 issues that kept the team from playing for nearly a month.

Brannen released a statement and believes the decision to fire him came before the investigation began.

According to allegations reported by The Athletic, a rift had developed between Brannen and some of his players. Brannen faced the unenviable task of replacing Mick Cronin, who left for UCLA after the 2018-19 season. Cronin led Cincinnati to nine straight NCAA Tournament appearances to cap his 13-year run with the program. 

Brannen, 47, came to Cincinnati after leading Northern Kentucky to three straight 20-win seasons and a pair of NCAA Tournaments during a four-year run as helped the program find its footing in the Division I ranks.