Bob Huggins threatens lawsuit against West Virginia as ex-Mountaineers basketball coach seeks reinstatement

Three weekends removed from his arrest for drunk driving in Pittsburgh, former West Virginia coach Bob Huggins is claiming — through one of his attorneys — he never resigned as the Mountaineers men’s basketball coach. He’s also requesting a return to power at the helm of the program.

The news broke Saturday via MetroNews, which released the July 7 letter from David A. Campbell (Huggins’ attorney) to West Virginia president E. Gordon Gee. MetroNews also published the July 8 rebuttal from WVU to Huggins’ lawyer, who apparently is working independently from other counsel that has been in communication with school leaders in recent weeks.

Huggins lost his job in June, one day after he was put in handcuffs with a blood alcohol level of .210, according to the police report. Huggins’ intoxication level was nearly three times the legal limit and officers reported they smelled alcohol on his breath. Per the arrest complaint, when asked repeatedly by officers to identify what city he was in, Huggins did not state he was in Pittsburgh.

The next day, June 17, West Virginia announced Huggins was no longer its men’s basketball coach.

“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,” read a statement from Huggins.

In Friday’s letter to Gee, however, Campbell wrote, “Coach Huggins does not desire litigation. Rather, he is simply looking for the correction of a clear breach of his employment agreement with WVU.”

The letter continues:

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. … Based on the press statements issued by WVU over the past days, it is quite obvious that WVU recognized this legal issue and has tried to correct it through claims that Coach Huggins communicated his resignation directly to you and that he signed a resignation communication sent through WVU’s social media page. Coach Huggins never signed a resignation letter and never communicated a resignation to anyone at WVU. Accordingly, the WVU public comments are not only false, but appear to be an after-the-fact attempt to remedy WVU’s breach of the Employment Agreement.

There is also an eyebrow-raising claim from Campbell in his letter in which he states Huggins’ drunk driving case is “close to being fully resolved without charges.” After opening the letter by noting Huggins does not wish to Sue, Campbell’s letter concludes by threatening litigation if Huggins isn’t eventually reinstated.

The university’s response letter admits to being “frankly confused by the allegations” from Campbell.

More here from Stephanie Taylor, a lawyer representing West Virginia University.

Aside from being completely factually inaccurate, which we address briefly below, the allegations within this letter are at odds with my conversations yesterday with Mr. Bob Fitzsimmons, a West Virginia lawyer who has recently represented Mr. Huggins in various matters, and with the University’s prior conversations and documented correspondence with Mr. James “Rocky” Gianola, Mr. Huggins’ long-standing lawyer who has historically represented him, who represented him during the May 2023 negotiations with the University, and who represented him in conversations with the University on June 16-17, 2023 when Mr. Huggins decided to resign as WVU Head Men’s Basketball Coach and retire from the University effective immediately. … On the evening of June 17, 2023, Mr. Huggins met with members of the men’s basketball staff and student-athletes to announce that he would no longer be coaching the team. The same evening at 9:38 pm, following a series of written and verbal 2 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).

The letter later states: “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.”

The server between Huggins and West Virginia came not only after his arrest in June but was compounded by prior embarrassment to the university in May when Huggins made homophobic and anti-Catholic remarks on Cincinnati radio. There were calls for WVU to fire Huggins after that episode; WVU instead restructured his contract and suspended him for the upcoming season. A little more than five weeks later, he lost his post in the wake of the drunk-driving arrest.

On June 24, West Virginia promoted assistant Josh Eilert to interim head coach for the 2023-24 season. The Mountaineers have suffered roster attrition as a result, losing four players to the transfer portal, most notably projected starters Tre Mitchell (now at Kentucky) and Joe Toussaint (now at Texas Tech).

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