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Kent State sues ex-basketball coach over departure

Kent State is suing former men's basketball coach Geno Ford for more than $1.2 million in damages over his recent departure for Bradley University.

The lawsuit filed April 26 in Portage County Common Pleas Court in northeast Ohio alleges Ford had no permission to terminate his Kent State contract, which was scheduled to expire March 31, 2015, and that he breached his contract and his duty to Kent State.

"Kent State honors its agreements, and it expects others to do the same," Rodd Sanders, an attorney representing the Ohio school, said Thursday.

The lawsuit also seeks more than $25,000 in compensatory damages and unspecified punitive damages from Bradley, alleging that the in Peoria, Ill., school interfered with the Kent State contract and "intentionally induced Ford to breach the agreement." The lawsuit also alleges that Bradley did not pay Kent State an early departure fee.

Ford said in a statement Thursday that "it is unfortunate this has turned into a legal matter." He said, "During the process, everything was handled professionally and appropriately."

Bradley athletic director Michael Cross released a statement saying the university "is respectful of employer-employee relationships" and that Ford and Bradley handled the hiring process "in a straightforward and professional manner with the clear consent of Kent State."

Ford was Kent State's head coach from April 2008 through March 27 of this year, when Bradley announced him as its new coach. He was earning a total base and supplemental salary of $300,000 a year at Kent State.

Ford agreed in his contract that if he left before it expired he would pay Kent State a sum equal to his base and supplemental salary, multiplied by the number of years or any portions of those years remaining in the agreement, the lawsuit states.

Ford led Kent State to its second consecutive Mid-American Conference regular-season title in 2010-11. The Flashes finished 25-12 and lost in the NIT quarterfinals. In three seasons at Kent State, his teams went 68-37, including 35-13 in the MAC, and he was voted MAC coach of the year twice.

He has also coached at NAIA Shawnee State and Division III Muskingum.

Ford replaced Jim Les, who was fired earlier in March of this year after nine seasons at Bradley. The Braves finished 12-20 overall and 4-14 in the Missouri Valley Conference this season.

Kent State hired former assistant Rob Senderoff to replace Ford.