Bob Huggins will keep his job as the head men’s basketball coach at West Virginia, the university said Wednesday, but will be suspended for three games and receive a pay cut after he used an anti-gay slur twice and derisively mocked Catholics during an interview with a Cincinnati radio station this week.
The university said it would rework Huggins’s contract and reduce his annual salary by $1 million, down from $4.15 million. He will be required to undergo sensitivity training and will miss the first three games of the 2023-24 season.
In a joint statement, the university’s president and athletic director said Huggins, the winningest active coach in Division I men’s basketball, would be immediately fired if he made any similar offensive comments in the future.
During an interview Monday on the Cincinnati radio station 700 WLW, Huggins described fans of Xavier University, a Jesuit institution, using a homophobic slur and underscored the school’s religious affiliation. While discussing his 16-season tenure with the University of Cincinnati and the school’s intracity rivalry with Xavier, Huggins twice directed a homophobic slur toward Xavier fans, referring to those who would “throw rubber penises on the floor, and then say they didn’t do it.”
Huggins, 69, issued an apology as part of the university’s statement, saying he deeply regretted his comments and the hurt they had caused.
“I have no excuse for the language I used, and I take full responsibility,” he said in Wednesday’s statement. “I will abide with the actions outlined by the university and athletics leadership to learn from this incident. I have had several conversations with colleagues and friends that I deeply respect and admire over the last 24 hours, and I am keenly aware of the pain that I have caused.”
Aside from the pay cut, Huggins will make a personal donation to Xavier to support its Center for Faith and Justice and its Center for Diversity and Inclusion, though the amount of the donation was not specified. He will also be required to meet with L.G.B.T.Q. leaders from across the state of West Virginia.
In August 2021, Huggins signed a contract extension through the 2023-24 season that made him one of the highest-paid coaches in college basketball. According to his previous contract, Huggins would have had options to coach “or extend his relationship” with the university through June 2027. In Wednesday’s announcement, the university said Huggins’s current contract would be amended to a year-by-year agreement that would end on April 30, 2024.
The university’s statement said the $1 million trimmed from Huggins’s salary would be used to support its L.G.B.T.Q. center, its mental health counseling center and other organizations.
“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,” the statement said.
Huggins has coached at West Virginia since 2007. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2022 and is one of only six men’s coaches to accumulate 900 career wins in Division I.