Bob Huggins, West Virginia University’s men’s basketball coach, will be allowed to return to coaching next season after serving out a short suspension for using an anti-gay slur during a radio interview earlier this week.
Appearing on an Ohio sports radio show, Huggins called Cincinnati-based Xavier University’s fans as “Catholic f**s” and claimed they threw rubber dildos on the court while recounting rival games between the Xavier Musketeers and the University of Cincinnati Bearcats basketball teams.
Huggins, who coached the Bearcats from 1989 to 2005, has agreed to a million-dollar salary reduction, from $4.2 million to $3.2 million — believed to be one of the biggest salary reductions in college athletics, according to ESPN.
Huggins also agreed to submit to a three-game suspension at the beginning of the regular season, and sensitivity training as punishment for the on-air incident.
His contract will also be amended from a multiyear agreement to a year-by-year contract, with the current term running from May 10, 2023 to April 30, 2024.
West Virginia University, in a statement from president Gordon Gee and athletic director Wren Baker, said that they warned Huggins that “any incidents of similar derogatory and offensive language will result in immediate termination.” The university had previously condemned the remarks and announced that it was reviewing the incident.
Huggins, who had apologized for the comments shortly after his on-air appearance, met with Gee on Tuesday and expressed contrition for the remarks, reports ESPN. The terms of Huggins’s punishment were reached after two days of internal deliberations that began as soon as university officials became aware of the radio interview.
The university announced that the athletics department would partner with WVU’s LGBTQ+ Center to develop annual LGBTQ-inclusive sensitivity training sessions, which Huggins and all other current and future athletics coaching staff will be required to complete.
Citing data from the Williams Institute, a think tank based at the UCLA School of Law that conducts independent research on LGBTQ issues, the university noted that West Virginia has the highest percentage of transgender youth in the nation.
Huggins will also be required to meet with LGBTQ leaders from across West Virginia, including representatives from Fairness WV, Morgantown Pride, the ACLU of West Virginia, and other organizations to discuss the issues impacting the communities, and will be expected to “engage in additional opportunities to show support for the LGBTQ+ community,” per the university’s press release.
He will also be required to meet with leadership from WVU’s Carruth Center, the on-campus mental health and counseling center, to better understand the mental health crisis facing many college students particularly those from marginalized communities, and will be expected to “raise awareness on how we can best support our students’ health and well-being.”
The $1 million in salary Huggins is giving up as part of his punishment will be donated to WVU’s LGBTQ+ Center, the Carruth Center, and other state and national organizations supporting LGBTQ and other marginalized communities.
The university also said that Huggins has agreed to make “a substantial donation” to Xavier University to support the school’s Center for Faith and Center for Diversity and Inclusion “for the disparaging way in which the Catholic faith was characterized in the comments.”
“We will never truly know the damage that has been done by the words said in those 90 seconds,” the university said of the on-air interview.
“Words matter and they can leave scars that can never be seen. But words can also heal. And by taking this moment to learn more about another’s perspective, speak respectfully and lead with understanding, perhaps the words ‘do better’ will lead to meaningful change for all.”
Huggins said in a statement that he regrets “the embarrassment and disappointment it has caused our Athletics family, members of our campus community and the state of West Virginia. I am sorry for the hurt and distress I have caused our students and our student-athletes. I represent more than just our University and our basketball program, and it pains me to know that I have let so many people down.
“West Virginia and West Virginia University are my home. I love this University and know first-hand that the education and experiences students receive here make a difference. I am truly sorry for the damage I have done. And I am grateful for the chance to move forward in a way that positively represents this University and our state.”
Huggins, a West Virginia alumnus, is a Hall of Fame coach who has amassed a 934-415 win-loss career record over more than four decades as a head basketball coach at Walsh University, the University of Akron, the University of Cincinnati, Kansas State University prior to his current stint at West Virginia University, which began in 2007.
At West Virginia, the teams he coached amassed a win-loss record of 345-203, with 11 NCAA Tournament appearances and one Final Four appearance in 2010.
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