Published: May 11, 2023

Huggins agrees to pay cut, suspension

West Virginia University basketball coach to lose $1M for homophobic slur on radio


Bob Huggins will remain basketball coach at West Virginia University after agreeing to a suspension and pay cut for using a homophobic slur during a radio show earlier this week, the university announced Wednesday afternoon.

In a lengthy news release, WVU President E. Gordon Gee and Athletic Director Wren Baker said:

• Mr. Huggins will be suspended for the first three regular-season games of the 2023-2024 season, home games against Missouri State, Monmouth and Jacksonville State. He will be back on the bench in time for a game Dec. 6 in Morgantown against the University of Pittsburgh.

• His employment contract will be amended from a multiyear agreement to a year-by-year agreement.

• His annual salary, which had been $4,150,000, has been reduced by $1 million, with that money going directly to support WVU’s LGBTQ+ Center and other state and national organizations that support marginalized communities.

• He will be fired immediately for “any incidents of similar derogatory and offensive language.”

“We will never truly know the damage that has been done by the words said in those 90 seconds on the radio show,” the university statement said. “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.”

In a blunder that will leave a lasting mark on his Hall of Fame career, Mr. Huggins used the slur to refer to Xavier fans on Monday while also denigrating Catholics during an appearance on Cincinnati radio station WLW. He apologized in a statement later Monday, and the university said it was investigating.

In their joint statement Wednesday, Mr. Gee and Mr. Baker said the comments were inexcusable and added, “It was a moment that unfairly and inappropriately hurt many people and has tarnished West Virginia University.’

During the radio show, Mr. Huggins was asked about the transfer portal and whether he had a chance of landing a player at West Virginia from Xavier, a Jesuit school.

“Catholics don’t do that,” he said. “I tell you what, any school that can throw rubber penises on the floor and then say they didn’t do it, by God, they can get away with anything.

“It was the Crosstown Shootout. What it was, was all those [expletive], those Catholic [expletive], I think.”

Mr. Huggins, in a statement after WVU announced its sanctions, said he had two days to think about what he had said on the radio show.

“I deeply regret my actions, the hurt they unfairly caused others and the negative attention my words have brought to West Virginia University,” he said. “I also regret 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.”

Xavier President Colleen Hanycz, in comments before a press event Wednesday detailing plans for a new medical school, had this to say about Mr. Huggins’ remarks on the radio show: “The deplorable mischaracterizations and homophobic slurs directed towards our LGBTQ+ and our Catholic communities were repulsive and offensive.

“To those in our Xavier family who were directly targeted and harmed by these hateful words, be assured that you are invaluable members of our Xavier family and you belong here,“ Ms. Hanycz said. ”Your presence makes us better.”

In its statement about its actions regarding Mr. Huggins, WVU said it took seriously “the disparaging way in which the Catholic faith was characterized in the comments. Coach Huggins personally volunteered and WVU agrees that he will make a substantial donation to Xavier University to support its Center for Faith and Justice and its Center for Diversity and Inclusion.”

Mr. Huggins, in his statement, said he also regretted his remarks about Xavier, adding, “I am hopeful that my personal donation to [Xavier] ... will further the work it does and the impact it has on its students.”

Mr. Huggins entered the Basketball Hall of Fame last September. In 41 seasons, his teams have gone to 25 NCAA tournaments, finished ranked in the top 10 of The Associated Press poll seven times and had finished under .500 five times. The Mountaineers have 11 NCAA tournament appearances under him.

Mr. Huggins spent 16 seasons at Cincinnati before being fired in 2005 in a power struggle with the school’s president, as well as the aftermath of a 2004 drunken driving arrest. After spending one season at Kansas State, he took his dream job at West Virginia, his alma mater, in 2007.

Mr. Gee and Mr. Baker said the actions the university outlined represent “a moment that provides the opportunity for learning. A moment that can shine a light on the injustice and hate that often befall the members of our marginalized communities. While the university has never and will never condone the language used on Monday, we will use this moment to educate how the casual use of inflammatory language and implicit bias affect our culture, our community and our health and well-being.”

They said the athletics department will partner with WVU’s LGBTQ+ Center to develop annual training sessions that will address inequality including homophobia, transphobia, sexism, ableism and more. They said the training and programming will be required of all current and future athletics coaching staff.