Former West Virginia University men’s head basketball coach Bob Huggins claims he did not resign from the school after he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence in Pittsburgh last month, his attorney said.
Huggins wants to be reinstated as head coach or he’ll sue the university for breach of contract, according to his attorney.
“Based on press statements, it appears that WVU is taking the position that Coach Huggins voluntarily resigned and terminated the Employment Agreement in advance of April 30, 2024 [the date his contract was set to expire],” Huggins’ attorney, David Campbell, wrote in a July 7 letter obtained by CNN to West Virginia University President Gordon Gee.
“However, although the press statements purport to have resignation communications directly from Coach Huggins to you and/or the Athletic Director, Coach Huggins has never communicated his resignation to you, the Athletic Director, or anyone at WVU. To the contrary, we understand that the purported ‘resignation’ is incredibly based on a text message from Coach Huggins’ wife.”
According to a statement attributed to Huggins posted on the school’s athletic website on June 17, Huggins sent a letter to Gee and West Virginia Director of Athletic Directors Wren Baker of his “resignation and intention to retire as head men’s basketball coach at West Virginia University effective immediately.”
In a joint statement that day, Gee and Baker said they accepted his resignation “in light of recent events,” one of which was the University reducing Huggins’ salary by $1 million per year and suspending him for three games in May after Huggins used a homophobic slur while appearing on a Cincinnati radio show.
In a June 17 resignation email obtained by CNN from an account apparently belonging to Bob Huggins’ wife, June, to Baker, he received the following message: “Please accept this correspondence as my formal notice of resignation as WVU Head Basketball Coach and as notice of my retirement from West Virginia University, effective immediately.”
In the email thread, Baker responded: “We accept your resignation and wish you the best in retirement. We appreciate your many years of dedication to WVU.”
But according to the letter from Huggins’ attorney to the school president Friday, “there was never a resignation” because his employment agreement required him to send notice of early termination in writing via registered or certified mail to the school’s athletic director and general counsel.
The university responded to Campbell’s letter to the school stating Huggins met with the team and staff on June 17 - which was widely reported - to announce he’ll be stepping down.
“The conflicting communications and correspondence from various counsel on Mr. Huggins’s behalf leave the University unclear as to its next steps: continue working collaboratively with Mr. Fitzsimmons on common resignation/retirement benefits for a former University employee and as outlined in Mr. Huggins’ contract; or respond to meritless demand letters and possible frivolous litigation brought forth by you,” West Virginia Vice President and General Counsel Stephanie Taylor wrote in a July 8 reply to Campbell.
“What is clear however, is that on the evening of June 17, 2023, Mr. Huggins met with members of the men’s basketball staff and student-athletes to announce that he would no longer be coaching the team.
“The same evening at 9:38 p.m., following a series of written and verbal communications with Mr. Gianola, who was acting as his counsel, Mr. Huggins clearly communicated his resignation and retirement to the University in writing via email (not text message as asserted in your letter). Later that same night at 9:42 p.m., Wren Baker, the University’s Athletics Director, with a cc to me as General Counsel, wrote back via email, accepting Mr. Huggins’ resignation and retirement,” Taylor wrote.
Huggins’ attorney said that the former West Virginia head coach wants to return to his coaching duties at the school after completing his rehabilitation program he voluntarily entered after the Pittsburgh incident.
“Had WVU simply waited a weekend and looked at the situation with the benefit of speaking with Coach Huggins, we are confident that WVU would have chosen a different path,” Campbell wrote. He said Huggins “does not desire litigation.”
On June 24, West Virginia named Josh Eilert interim head men’s basketball coach.
In a statement following the Pittsburgh incident, Huggins said, “I am solely responsible for my conduct and sincerely apologize to the University community – particularly to the student-athletes, coaches and staff in our program. I must do better, and I plan to spend the next few months focused on my health and my family so that I can be the person they deserve.”
Huggins won 935 victories, which ranks as the third-most wins in college basketball history among Division I head coaches, in his 41 seasons as head coach.
During his tenure as West Virginia head coach, he led his alma mater to 345 wins while reaching the NCAA Tournament 11 times, including five NCAA Sweet 16’s and the 2010 NCAA Final Four.
Before becoming the head coach of the Mountaineers, Huggins was a head coach at the University of Akron (1984-1989), University of Cincinnati (1989-2005), and Kansas State University (2006-2007).
Huggins was selected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2022.