Monday, June 14, 2004

Huggins' return remains unclear


Goin won't divulge the criteria for reinstatement

By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The University of Cincinnati will not make public the criteria that suspended basketball coach Bob Huggins must meet before he can be reinstated, athletic director Bob Goin said Sunday.

"You won't get it from me," said Goin, who placed Huggins on indefinite suspension with pay on Saturday. "This is a personnel thing and so I'm certainly not going to release any of that."

Huggins was arrested last Tuesday night in Fairfax on charges of driving under the influence.

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Video icon Saturday news conference
Video icon Police in-cruiser video of Huggins being pulled over
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View the police report

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By keeping the criteria private , the UC athletic director has set up the process so that Huggins could return in time for the start of next season. If that happens, he could also open himself to criticism over how stringent the criteria were.

When Goin decides that Huggins is ready to return, he'll make a recommendation to UC president Dr. Nancy Zimpher, who must approve the decision.

The UC coach will presumably miss the summer recruiting evaluation periods of July 8-17 and July 22-31, during which coaches can make off-campus assessments of prospects.

Depending on how long the suspension lasts, he could also miss the crucial contact period from Sept. 9 to Oct. 5 during which coaches can make in-person recruiting contacts and evaluations.

Goin and Huggins met Saturday after the news conference.

"I wanted to make sure he knows clearly that it's total removal," Goin said. "It's a divorce from the program."

The UC athletic director said they also began the process of formulating the criteria that Huggins must meet before he can return.

"We started," Goin said, "and we'll talk about it some more. I'm giving that a lot of thought over the next few days and then I'll share some things with him. This incident was bad, very serious, but there have been other indications that he's needed time away."

In announcing the suspension, Goin made it sound more rehabilitative than punitive, which he said was his intention. He emphasized that Huggins has been under a lot of stress from running a Top 25 program for 15 years and as a result of his 2002 heart attack and the May 2003 death of his mother.

But the suspension, while intended to help Huggins, is also designed to send a message that such behavior won't be tolerated.

"It's hard for him to believe it's not punitive," Goin said, "and I wanted him to believe some of it is punitive. But it's punitive on the positive side. It's not a whipping more than it is a guiding principle.

"This is a tough call. I take my best shot. Somebody else in this chair could do it differently, but I'm in that chair."

Goin said Zimpher has been "very engaged" in the Huggins matter, although Zimpher did not make an appearance at the news conference Saturday and has not made a public statement regarding the suspension.

Zimpher did not return phone calls either Saturday or Sunday.

"I think we had a good dialogue with this," Goin said. "We talked on Thursday a lot. I was in her office face-to-face a couple of different times. Obviously, what we did we were together on. I wouldn't be doing this if she didn't endorse this. She's very respective of personal relationships, but also very respective of the image of the university. We both are."

Goin said he has received mostly positive feedback from his decision.

"Some people wanted him fired," Goin said. "Some people wanted nothing to happen to him. Some people wanted him to go to the Bahamas on a paid vacation. But the majority thought the suspension was warranted."

Goin, who originally said he expected to name an interim coach by Saturday afternoon, now says he intends to make the announcement late this afternoon.

The likely choice is associate head coach Dan Peters, who was the head coach at Youngstown State from 1993-99, posting a 78-87 record, and who took over for Huggins when he suffered a heart attack in September 2002.

Recruiting coordinator Andy Kennedy, who was a candidate for the Southern Miss head coaching job this spring before it was given to Larry Eustachy, is another option.

Goin could also choose to split the responsibilities for running the program between the two of them.

He met with the coaching staff for about an hour Saturday afternoon.

"I'll do whatever I've got to do to get through this thing and help Bob," Peters said Sunday. "I feel very bad for Huggs. I just hate to see something like this happen.

"He knows a lot of people have been injured by this thing and touched by it."

---

E-mail bkoch@enquirer.com




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