The University of Cincinnati on Saturday put men’s 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.

Brennan’s attorney, Tom Mars, told ESPN in a statement that Cincinnati is mishandling its investigation.

“It’s been my experience that collegiate ADs are experts at mishandling internal investigations, and this case is no exception,” Mars said. “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 added that Brannen would deserve his $5.25 million buyout if athletic director John Cunningham decides to fire him, threatening a lawsuit if the school 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.

The Bearcats finished 12-11 in Brannen’s second season at Cincinnati after a 20-10 record in 2019-20. He previously coached at Northern Kentucky.

ESPN’s Mark Schlabach and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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