Hall of Famer former West Virginia men's basketball coach Bob Huggins claims he never resigned from his position and is demanding reinstatement, according to a letter obtained by WCHS TV's Daniel Burbank.
Huggins' attorneys sent West Virginia University a letter on Friday (July 7) in which he claimed he was “simply looking for the correction of a clear breach of his employment agreement with WVU." The Hall of Fame coach claims his "resignation" was based on a text message sent by his wife.
"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. 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 letter states.
West Virginia University said Huggins did resigned and called the coach's claims "factually inaccurate" in a statement obtained by WCHS TV.
"We are frankly confused by the allegations within the letter," said Stephanie Taylor, vice president and general counsel for the WVU Office of the General Counsel, wrote in the response letter.
Huggins was reported to have resigned from his position last month hours after being arrested for driving under the influence. Taylor confirmed that she had spoken with Bob Fitzsimmons, an attorney who had previously represented Huggins in various matters, on Friday after receiving the letter.
"Yesterday, Mr. Fitzsimmons called me to discuss the benefits to be provided under Mr. Huggins’ contract, as a result of his resignation and retirement. We specifically discussed the payment of his deferred compensation and annual leave balance payout, both of which would not be currently owed to Mr. Huggins if he had not resigned," Taylor wrote via WCHS TV. "It appears to us that you may not be aware that Mr. Fitzsimmons, as Mr. Huggins’ other lawyer, has been proceeding under that very same understanding as the University, and the reality as it exists, that Mr. Huggins has in fact resigned and is retired."
Taylor also acknowledged that Huggins met with the West Virginia basketball team and staff on the night of June 17 to confirm 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)," Taylor added. "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 confirmed that the university had no plans to accept Huggins' revocation of resignation nor reinstate the former head coach.
"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," the letter stated.
West Virginia University promoted former assistant Josh Eilert to interim head coach on June 24 following Huggins' reported resignation. The Hall of Fame coach publicly addressed his resignation and arrest in a statement to Mountaineers fans shared on the team's website on June 17.
"Mountaineer Nation: Today, I have submitted a letter to President Gordon Gee and Vice President and Director of Athletics Wren Baker informing them of my resignation and intention to retire as head men's basketball coach at West Virginia University effective immediately," Huggins said via WVUSports.com. "My recent actions do not represent the values of the University or the leadership expected in this role. While I have always tried to represent our University with honor, I have let all of you – and myself – down. 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.
"It has been the honor of my professional career to lead the men's basketball program at my alma mater and I take great pride in our accomplishments. But I am most proud of the tremendous young men who chose to spend their formative years with us, and who have gone on to do great things with their lives.
"I was born in Morgantown, graduated from West Virginia University and had the pleasure of coaching here for seventeen seasons as an assistant or head coach. It will always be my home, and I will always be a Mountaineer.
"Thank you to everyone who has supported our program over the years. It has meant more to me and my family than you could ever know.
"Sincerely, Bob Huggins."
Huggins, 69, was charged with driving under the influence in June, according to a Pittsburgh Police arrest report. The coach's SUV was stopped in the middle of a road blocking traffic with its driver's side door open after experiencing a flat and shredded tire, according to police.
Officers directed Huggins to move forward so they could assist him with the flat tire and observed that he had difficulty maneuvering the SUV to get out of the way of passing vehicles, at which point police turned on their lights to pull him over. Huggins was asked to "perform standard field sobriety tests, which he failed" before being "placed in custody without incident and transported for further testing," according to the arrest report.
Huggins was later released from custody and is scheduled to appear in court "for a preliminary hearing at a later date."
In May, Huggins amended a deal to return to the sideline next season following a recent controversy in which he used an anti-gay slur twice during a radio interview while describing the fans of rival Xavier, ESPN's Pete Thamel reported at the time.
"Sources: WVU and coach Bob Huggins are finalizing details for him to return to the sideline next season in the wake of him using an anti-gay slur in a radio interview earlier this week. He's expected to receive a suspension, $1 million salary reduction and sensitivity training," Thamel tweeted.
Huggins issued an apology shared by the team on May 8.
"Earlier today on a Cincinnati radio program, I was asked about the rivalry between my former employer, the University of Cincinnati, and its crosstown rival, Xavier University. 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 at the time. “I deeply apologize to the individuals I have offended, as well as to the Xavier University community, the University of Cincinnati and West Virginia University.
"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.”
Huggins, who was hired by WVU in 2007, is one of only six coaches in NCAA history with more than 900 career victories, which included past tenures at Kansas State (2006-07), Cincinnati (1989-2005) and Akron (1984-89). The Morgantown native played point guard from 1975 to 1977 and began his coaching career working as an assistant for the Mountaineers in 1977.
Huggins was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2022 and led both West Virginia (2010) and Akron (1992) to the Final Four.