Weeks after Bob Huggins announced his resignation following a DUI arrest, an attorney for the former West Virginia men’s basketball coach claims he never formally resigned last month, and said Huggins will sue the university if he’s not immediately reinstated.
In response, the university, which announced the hiring of longtime assistant Josh Eilert as interim coach last month, said it will not reinstate Huggins and will defend itself against any “spurious allegations.”
Last month, Huggins announced his resignation through a statement that said “recent actions do not represent the values of the University or the leadership expected in this role” after he had been arrested in Pittsburgh for driving under the influence and registering a blood alcohol content of 0.21%, nearly three times the legal limit. The arrest came nearly six weeks after Huggins had used an anti-gay slur during a radio interview that prompted a three-game suspension and a $1 million reduction in salary.
According to documents released by the university on Saturday, however, Huggins’ legal team sent a letter to Gordon Gee, WVU’s president, on Friday that stated Huggins never officially resigned. The letter also said Huggins entered rehab after his arrest last month and intends to return to his post as head coach when he completes the program.
In his letter, which was obtained by ESPN, David A. Campbell, an attorney representing Huggins, said Huggins’ resignation correspondence with the school did not come from him but from his wife, June Huggins. Campbell claims Huggins never gave WVU a “formal” resignation.
“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 day his current contract was set to expire),” Campbell wrote. “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.”
The university released an email that came from an account belonging to “June Huggins” — Huggins’ wife — to athletic director Wren Baker the day the head coach announced his resignation that said, “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.”
The school also said it has had ongoing conversations with Huggins’ legal reps — not Campbell — in recent weeks that suggest the former coach understood he had resigned and had even been discussing the next steps of the resignation and retirement with Bob Fitzsimmons and James “Rocky” Gianola, two attorneys who have historically represented the former West Virginia coach, as recently as Friday.
“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,” said Stephanie D. Taylor, vice president and general counsel for West Virginia, in a letter to Campbell.
In his letter to West Virginia, Campbell said the school can either reinstate Huggins after a “breach of contract” or deal with a legal battle.
“Had WVU simply waited a weekend and looked at the (DUI) situation with the benefit of speaking with Coach Huggins, we are confident that WVU would have chosen a different path,” Campbell’s letter said. “However, regardless of WVU’s reasons for reaching this point, WVU is faced with the following choices: (1) Reinstate Coach Huggins to his Head Basketball Coach position once the rehabilitation program is completed pursuant to the plain terms of the Employment Agreement; or (2) remain in breach of the Employment Agreement and face litigation. The litigation will not only involve the breach of the Employment Agreement, but also WVU’s clear violation of state and federal law by terminating Coach Huggins without due process or even an interview to determine the true facts, not those reported by the media.”
The school responded and said it will not reinstate Huggins, who won 935 games in his career.
“Notwithstanding any response, and in no uncertain terms, the University will not accept Mr. Huggins’ revocation of his resignation, nor will it reinstate him as head coach of the men’s basketball program,” Taylor’s letter said. “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.”
News of Huggins’ decision and his legal team’s response was first reported by wvmetronews.com.