West Virginia suspends men's basketball coach Bob Huggins after use of homophobic slur

West Virginia has suspended men's basketball coach Bob Huggins for three games and cut his salary after he used a homophobic slur on a radio show.

West Virginia men's basketball coach Bob Huggins is being disciplined by the school two days after the Hall of Fame coach used a homophobic slur multiple times during a radio interview.

The university reduced Huggins' pay for the 2023-24 season by $1 million, according to a statement from West Virginia. Huggins had been scheduled to be paid $4.15 million for the 2023-24 season. He will also be suspended for the first three games of the 2023-24 season and undergo sensitivity training.

Huggins' contract will be amended from a multi-year agreement to a year-by-year agreement, effective Wednesday. The athletic department said it notified Huggins "any incidents of similar derogatory and offensive language will result in immediate termination."

West Virginia said the money from Huggins' reduced pay "will be used to directly support WVU's LGBTQ+ Center, the Carruth Center and other state and national organizations that support marginalized communities."

Bob Huggins' apology

Huggins said in a statement he has reflected on the "awful words" he said and regrets his actions. "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," he said. "I have no excuse for the language I used, and I take full responsibility."

Huggins, 69, apologized for his language, which aired on News Radio 700 WLW’s "Bill Cunningham Show" after the hosts asked him about Xavier, the coach's longtime rival when he led Cincinnati for 16 seasons (1989-2005). He referred to Xavier fans as "Catholic (expletive)" twice.

"During the conversation, I used a completely insensitive and abhorrent phrase that there is simply no excuse for — and I won’t try to make one here," Huggins said in a statement released through the university Monday. "As I have shared with my players over my 40 years of coaching, there are consequences for our words and actions, and I will fully accept any coming my way. I am ashamed and embarrassed and heartbroken for those I have hurt. I must do better, and I will.”

A West Virginia native, Huggins finished his collegiate playing days and began his coaching career at West Virginia. His first head coaching job was from 1980-1983 at Division II Walsh, followed by stints at Akron (1984-1989), Cincinnati, Kansas State (2006-07) and with the Mountaineers since then.

The school condemned Huggins' words shortly after his radio appearance. School officials deliberated on Huggins' punishment for two days, ESPN said.

Huggins went to the Final Four twice – once with Cincinnati (1992) and again with West Virginia (2010). Huggins is the active wins leader among all Division I coaches (935), and his career record is 935-414 (.693 winning percentage).

Bob Huggins' contract

The university's contract with Huggins appeared to give school officials the latitude to fire him without cause if they so chose.

According to Huggins’ contract at the time of the radio interview, he was required to, “conduct himself at all times in a manner which is consistent with being an instructor of students and which presents a positive representation of West Virginia University.”

It also stated he could be fired for cause for reasons including “Conduct by Coach that is clearly contrary to the character and responsibilities of a person occupying Coach’s position, offends the traditions of the University, brings discredit to the University; or harms the University’s reputation.” The contract did not state who makes the determination of whether the coach engaged in such conduct.

If Huggins was terminated for cause, the school was only required to pay him his current compensation through the termination date.

However, the termination date of his employment as head coach was not totally clear.

The contract said that subject to his “satisfactory compliance” with the agreement, the term was scheduled to extend automatically by one year to June 30, 2025, unless on or before May 1, 2023, the athletics director provided written notice of the AD’s desire not to grant the one-year extension.

A WVU athletics department spokesman could not be immediately reached to determine whether the extension has occurred.

Huggins was being paid $4.15 million annually in total basic compensation. So, a firing for cause would have cost him more than $8.6 million, plus at least another $100,000 he had been scheduled to receive for serving as “emeritus head coach” for a minimum of two years at a rate of $50,000 annually.

If Huggins had been fired without cause, he would have been owed half of the remaining basic annual compensation left on the deal.  

The university's statement released Wednesday says his current contract "will be amended from a multi-year agreement to a year-by-year agreement that will begin on May 10, 2023, and end on April 30, 2024."