Editorials, Opinion

Consequences for Huggins: What will WVU decide?

West Virginia University finds itself in a … predicament. 

Bob Huggins’ inappropriate comments on a Cincinnati radio show have put the otherwise beloved basketball coach in hot water: He referred to University of Cincinnati’s crosstown rivals, Xavier University, as “Catholic f–s,” using a homophobic slur. (See yesterday’s Sports coverage for the full story.)  

At the time of this writing, Huggins has issued an apology and said he will accept whatever consequences come his way, and WVU said in a statement that the situation is under review. By the time you read this, WVU may have decided on and announced a punishment or plan of action. 

Just before we put these words on paper, Morgantown Pride and Fairness West Virginia released statements rightfully calling out Huggins for the insensitivity of his words. As Fairness WV said, “It’s well known that this slur has been a tool to torment and harass our community. There is no excuse for using that kind of language in the year 2023.”  

There is no excuse: The f-word has gone the way of the r-word and the n-word, and there is no situation in which using any of the above is appropriate. 

In its statement, Fairness WV also said, “Coach Huggins’ words are particularly painful because he is loved by thousands of West Virginians, including many LGBTQ people.”  

And that right there is what makes this whole situation so much more complicated. Huggins is a beloved Mountain State icon: The hometown boy who found great success and came home again to share his skill and experience with the next generation. He was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame as one of the most winningest coaches in basketball history, and there’s been much hype around his recruits for the 2024 season. 

How does one reconcile this folk hero with someone who so casually throws out the disturbing slur, “Catholic f–s”?  

The already strange situation seems even more surreal to us when we stop to consider that WVU President E. Gordon Gee ultimately came back to the Mountain State after his own disparaging comments about Catholics — and the subsequent backlash — hastened his retirement from Ohio State University in 2013. 

Of course, Huggins has the dubious distinction of insulting two groups with one comment. 

Will Gee’s past comment and its consequences (or lack thereof) have any bearing on Huggins’ punishment?  

What is the appropriate penalty for such heinous words spoken by someone so admired?  

We don’t know. 

We’re certain there must be consequences for Huggins’ words — be that anything from suspension to sensitivity training to termination to financial penance — just as we’re sure everyone has their own idea of what would be a just punishment. But that decision lies solely with the university, and the rest of us can only wait and see what it decides.