The potential legal battle between Bob Huggins and West Virginia University continued to build Monday, with Huggins releasing a statement saying he never submitted a resignation notice to the school and should therefore still be employed as the school’s head men’s basketball coach.
A June 17 announcement released by the school and attributed to Huggins said he was stepping down following his arrest the night before on a charge of driving under the influence. The arrest came just six weeks after Huggins used an anti-gay slur in a radio interview, which resulted in a three-game suspension and $1 million salary reduction.
However, in his statement Monday, Huggins said the June 17 announcement was not written by him.
“I did not draft or review WVU’s statement,” Huggins wrote. “This false statement was sent under my name, but no signature is included. … I am employed by WVU pursuant to an Employment Agreement. I never submitted the notice required under the Employment Agreement to voluntarily resign.”
He also wrote that he did not inform his players of his decision to resign at a June 17 meeting, telling them only that he did not know what was going to happen.
Huggins added that he voluntarily checked into a rehabilitation center and plans to remain there until he’s “cleared to return to [his] active coaching duties.”
Last week, David A. Campbell, an attorney representing Huggins, sent a letter to West Virginia saying Huggins’ resignation email came from Huggins’ wife, June Huggins. As a result, Campbell claimed, Huggins never formally resigned.
In response, West Virginia told Campbell it does not plan to reinstate Huggins.
“Moreover, if Mr. Huggins or his counsel attempts to publicly suggest that he somehow did not resign and retire from his position, please be advised that the University will swiftly and aggressively defend itself from these spurious allegations,” wrote Stephanie D. Taylor, vice president and general counsel for the university.
Campbell responded to Taylor in another letter Monday, saying that Huggins’ employment agreement requires Huggins to send written notice of his resignation to the school’s athletic director and general counsel.
“Accordingly, based on the plain language of the Employment Agreement and clear West Virginia law, an email from Coach Huggins’ wife to Steve Uryasz, WVU’s Deputy Athletics Director, is not effective notice of resignation under the Employment Agreement,” he wrote.
Taylor and West Virginia responded Monday night to Campbell’s second letter, reiterating the university’s stance that Huggins indeed resigned and it will not reinstate him as head coach, while also calling Campbell and Huggins’ assertions “meritless” and “contrary to the documented evidence.”
The university provided a timeline of the weekend of June 16-18, citing conversations and correspondence between the school and James Gianola, Huggins’ lawyer. According to Taylor’s letter, Gianola informed West Virginia on the night of June 17 that Huggins planned to resign and retire, then asked if the university would accept his resignation via an email sent by his wife. The school also says Huggins specifically told his players on the night of June 17 that he was resigning.
Gianola also reviewed and approved of Huggins’ resignation announcement that was released by the university, according to Taylor. Huggins cleaned out his office on June 18.
“In other words, to the extent you are suggesting that the resignation of Mr. Huggins did not strictly and technically comply with the provisions of the Employment Agreement, WVU nonetheless has accepted his unequivocal resignation, and WVU has not and is not requiring a different form of notice under the Employment Agreement,” Taylor wrote. “We accepted his resignation in the form requested by counsel to Mr. Huggins. There is no support in the law of on these facts to suggest that Mr. Huggins may now ignore his resignation and his actions upon which all have relied, undo his voluntary separation, and return to work as if none of this ever occurred.”