UC to Huggins: Resign or be fired
By Paul Daugherty
Enquirer staff writer
Bob Huggins, the winningest basketball coach in University of Cincinnati history, will be fired or forced to resign within the next 24 hours. Huggins has been asked to resign, effective immediately, a source close to the situation said Tuesday morning. Bearcats associate head coach Andy Kennedy will be asked to become interim head coach.
The move comes two months after university president Nancy Zimpher declined to exercise the rollover option of Huggins’ contract. The ensuing divide between Zimpher and Huggins fueled speculation that Huggins’ 16-year run at UC might end abruptly.
A source said a letter would be sent Tuesday to Huggins’ representative Richard Katz asking the coach to accept a $3 million buyout of the remaining two years of his contract. Huggins would have 24 hours to accept the deal. If he rejected it, the source said, Huggins would be “terminated without cause” and compensation would be reduced to $2 million.
“I can confirm that we have been in discussions with the university concerning our request for the restoration of the four-year rollever, or an extension of the contract so that Bob can retire as the head coach as the head coach of the University of Cincinnati,” Katz said.
The shocking end to the 51-year-old Huggins’ highly successful run comes barely two months before the Bearcats begin practice for their first season in the Big East Conference. It is certain to spark fan and donor protest and, possibly, backlash from recruits who have committed to UC, and current players loyal to Huggins.
Huggins’ UC record of 399-127 and his string of 14 consecutive NCAA tournament appearances (third longest in the nation) was not enough to overcome the poor national image the basketball program had acquired under his watch. Even as player graduation rates improved in recent years, and Huggins’ on-court demeanor became less tempestuous, Zimpher and UC’s Board of Trustees determined the program to be a liability to the school’s overall image.