West Virginia basketball coach Bob Huggins will return to the sideline next season in the wake of using an anti-gay slur in a radio interview earlier this week.
Huggins has agreed to a million-dollar salary reduction, a three-game suspension and sensitivity training.
Huggins’ suspension will take place during the Mountaineers’ first three regular-season games, and his contract will be amended from a multiyear agreement to a year-by-year pact that will begin May 10, 2023, and end April 30, 2024.
Huggins’ amended salary reduces what he makes from $4.2 million to $3.2 million. The million-dollar salary reduction is believed to be one of the biggest in college athletics.
The university, in a statement from president Gordon Gee and athletic director Wren Baker, said that “any incidents of similar derogatory and offensive language will result in immediate termination.”
The school said it will partner with the university’s LGBTQ+ Center “to develop annual training sessions that will address all aspects of inequality including homophobia, transphobia, sexism, ableism and more. This training and programming will be required of Coach Huggins and all current and future athletics coaching staff.”
The university said that, “according to the Williams Institute, West Virginia has the highest percentage of transgender youth in the nation. To address the concerns of our West Virginia youth, Coach Huggins will be required to meet with LGBTQ+ leaders from across West Virginia with guidance from the leadership of WVU’s LGBTQ+ Center.”
The Williams Institute, based at UCLA, conducts independent research on sexual orientation and gender identity law and policy.
Huggins, 69, also will be required to meet with leadership from the university’s Carruth Center “to better understand the mental health crisis facing our college students, particularly those in marginalized communities. It is expected he will work with the Center and the University to raise awareness on how we can best support our students’ health and well-being.”
The $1 million from Huggins’ reduced salary will support the university’s LGBTQ+ Center, the Carruth Center and “other state and national organizations that support marginalized communities.”
Huggins met with Gee on Tuesday and expressed contrition for the remarks, sources told ESPN. The decision came from the highest levels of the school, including Gee and the university administration, the school’s board of trustees and the athletic department.
The decision came after nearly two days of deliberations, after Huggins appeared on a Cincinnati-area radio station Monday. The university soon after condemned his words and announced that it was reviewing the incident.
In a radio interview on News Radio 700 WLW in Cincinnati, where Huggins used to coach (at the University of Cincinnati), he discussed an incident with the host in which Huggins recalled “rubber penises” were thrown on the floor of a Crosstown Shootout game between Cincinnati and Xavier.
Huggins then said, “What it was, was all those f-gs, those Catholic f-gs, I think.”
According to the university, Huggins has agreed to make “a substantial donation” to Xavier to support the school’s Center for Faith and Justice and Center for Diversity and Inclusion for “the disparaging way in which the Catholic faith was characterized in the comments.”
The audio emerged on the media industry website Awful Announcing and quickly spread. The remarks sparked a significant backlash, and Huggins issued an apology.
In a statement Wednesday, Huggins said 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.”
He added: “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 graduate, is a Hall of Fame coach who has an 863-389 record at four Division I schools since getting the Akron job in 1984. Huggins’ other Division I coaching job was at Kansas State. Along the way, he emerged as one of the most successful and divisive coaches of the last generation. He has been at West Virginia since 2007 and has led the school to a 345-203 record, 11 NCAA tournaments and the 2010 Final Four.