Earle Bruce has sued Ohio State and its president, Edward Jennings, mainly because of the anguish his family suffered following his firing as football coach, Bruce's attorney said Sunday.
Meanwhile, Jennings and the chairman of the university's board of trustees, Edmund Redman, said they stood by their decision to dismiss Bruce.
Bruce filed a lawsuit Friday that claims he was wrongfully dismissed and that Jennings slandered him in statements to the media. The suit seeks $7.44 million in damages.
"It was the cumulative effect of statements made by board members and the president, and the president's general, evasive attitude," Columbus lawyer John Zonak said in explaining why the suit was filed.
"More than anything, Coach Bruce felt it was the effect on his family. . . . He saw them crying and suffering," he said.
Jennings has not publicly disclosed why Bruce was fired last Monday and said the decision to fire him was his alone. But the suit claims, "Jennings wrongfully yielded to two small pressure groups in an effort to protect his personal interests."
Zonak said: "One (of the trustees) said he was too old. Another said they had voted (on firing Bruce). . . . Another said there was no vote, and another said there was a consensus."
The suit said the firing breached Bruce's contract and that Jennings "voiced slanderous and libelous untrue statements to others regarding the good reputation" of the coach.
Said Jennings: "I have not attacked anyone personally, nor have I slandered any individual."
Among reasons mentioned in media reports for Bruce's firing were his age (58), his being overweight and that he attended horse races with former Ohio State quarterback Art Schlichter.
"I have no apology for going to the race track," Bruce said. "I'm not a big gambler. I'm not a big bettor, but I like to see the horses run."
He said he had never attended races with Schlichter.
"I hate to hear that, the innuendoes about my own character," Bruce said.