Sunday, June 13, 2004

UC puts Huggins on leave with pay

By Bill Koch
The Cincinnati Enquirer

University of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins was placed on indefinite suspension with pay Saturday by athletic director Bob Goin following Huggins' arrest Tuesday night on a drunken-driving charge.

Saying he believes in second chances, Goin placed Huggins on "mandatory suspension, completely away from the demands of his job."

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Video icon Saturday news conference
Video icon Police in-cruiser video of Huggins being pulled over
Video icon Video of Huggins' Friday news conference
Daugherty: DUI is a blessing for Huggins
View the police report

"This will permit him the opportunity to reflect, re-energize and update his life priorities," Goin said in a statement he read at a news conference held on campus at the Edwards Center.

"It will also let him address any personal matters which he has ignored. If he will accept this in the good faith in which it is intended and with the support of his family and all who love him, it is my desire that Bobby will return fresh and better conditioned to resume the demands of a job which he loves so dearly."

Goin said he reached the decision after consulting with UC president Dr. Nancy Zimpher.

Huggins' base salary is $185,000 a year, and his contract guarantees his total compensation package, including all benefits and internal and external revenue, will remain at least $1 million. He has a four-year rollover contract.

Huggins, 50, arrived at the news conference about 10 minutes before its 10 a.m. start. He did not answer questions but said he would "do everything in my power to meet whatever conditions I'm asked to do by my superiors."

Asked if that constituted formal acceptance of Goin's conditions, Richard Katz, Huggins' attorney, said, "I think you can take it for what he said. He's going to do whatever it takes to get back on the court. I'm sure that Bob Huggins will be meeting with Bob Goin to discuss where this goes from here."

Huggins and Goin did meet after the press conference Saturday to begin formulating the criteria Huggins must meet to return.

The UC coach was greeted at the news conference by Corie Blount and Tarrance Gibson, both of whom played on Huggins' 1992 Final Four team and had shown up to lend support. He hugged each player before and after the news conference.

"As a family, when the family takes a shot like this, it hurts, certainly when it comes from the top," Gibson said. "I've been here since 1989 and he's been the only thing that I've known at the university. Me being his first recruit, I think that we have a father-son relationship.

"I talk to him every other day or every day, just to say, 'Hi, I love you for being my father.' I'm a product of a single-parent family. What you see standing before you is simply because of the hard work he put in me. I thank him for it. From a character standpoint, he's the best thing that ever happened to me. And many of my teammates can say the same thing."

Huggins offered no excuses.

"I totally accept that I made a mistake," he said. "My wish and my hope is that I can complete and do what it is that's asked of me so that I can go back and be with my players."

Under the terms of Huggins' contract, he could have been fired, but Goin said he never considered terminating him.

Goin said he and Huggins would meet to formulate a process for Huggins to follow that would likely involve professional help. He said there is no timetable for Huggins' return and declined to speculate on whether Huggins would return in time for the start of basketball practice in October.

"I can't say that," Goin said. "I'm not going to say 60 days, 90 days, one year. When I feel comfortable that he's ready to resume his responsibility, then I'll make that recommendation."

Goin said he first learned of Huggins' arrest during a meeting with Huggins on Thursday afternoon and has been in touch with him since then. He said the process for dealing with the transgression was already in place by the time reports of his arrest were first aired Friday.

Huggins, saying he made "a terrible mistake that I will pay deeply for," proclaimed "a great love for this university, a great love for this community. I would hope that decisions I've made in the past that were decisions to stay here to be a part of this university and this community would bear that out."

Huggins, in his 15th year at UC, rejuvenated a once-proud program that had not made an NCAA Tournament appearance in 15 years before he arrived in 1989 to replace Tony Yates. With a 374-119 record, he has won more games than any coach in UC history, has never had a losing season at UC, coached the Bearcats to the Final Four in 1992 and has made 13 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament.

"He knows that everybody errs and this is very serious," Goin said. "He reflected that in his meeting with me, that he knew this was serious and it was tremendously poor judgment.

"I think he can come back and if the right things fall into place I think he can come back and be the coach for 10 years or 15 years if that's what he wants to do. He's a young man."



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