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Bob Huggins tries to walk back resignation from West Virginia, school denies demand for reinstatement

Bob Huggins wants to return West Virginia. The feeling is not mutual. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

West Virginia’s Bob Huggins situation somehow just got even messier.

Three weeks after West Virginia released a statement attributed to Huggins announcing his resignation and retirement following a DUI arrest, an attorney representing the longtime Mountaineers head coach sent a letter to the school claiming he, in fact, did not resign and demanding reinstatement.

In the letter, obtained by West Virginia Metro News, David A. Campbell claims Huggins never signed a formal resignation letter or officially communicated his resignation to any person at West Virginia. He claimed that West Virginia responded to the DUI arrest by demanding Huggins’ resignation the next day, rather than investigate the matter, which came a month after Huggins came under fire for using an anti-gay slur on a radio show.

Crucially, he claimed the only communication of resignation the university received was a text message from Huggins’ wife.

Huggins reportedly entered a rehab program following the arrest and is now looking to return to the Mountaineers as he nears its completion:

Coach Huggins was involved in an incident in Pittsburgh that is now close to being fully resolved without charges. Moreover, Coach Huggins has voluntarily sought rehabilitation following the incident in order to leave no doubt that he is fully capable of returning to his duties as WVU Head Basketball Coach. This rehabilitation was not ordered by the Court or any other entity. Rather, to demonstrate his commitment to the WVU basketball program, he took the step of entering the program on a voluntary nature. Coach Huggins will be released from the program soon and we will provide you with a full release for Coach Huggins to return to his active duties as Head Basketball Coach at WVU.

West Virginia responds to Bob Huggins’ demand for reinstatement

West Virginia responded with a total denial of Huggins’ claims in a response letter, calling the assertion “completely factually inaccurate.”

General counsel Stephanie Taylor wrote the letter clashed with what she heard Friday from Bob Fitzsimmons, a lawyer who has represented Huggins on other matters. She requested a clarification on who is representing Huggins and suggested Campbell hadn’t performed due diligence on the case.

She also noted Huggins himself told the WVU players he was resigning and claimed what Campbell called a text message was in fact an email from Huggins’ wife, reading “Please accept this correspondence as my formal notice of resignation as WVU Head Basketball Coach and as notice of my retirement from West Virginia University, effective immediately.”

Metro News also published the email.

Taylor’s account of how the evening went down:

What is clear, however, is that 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 p.m., following a series of written and verbal 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). Later that same night at 9:42 p.m., Wren Baker, the University’s Athletics Director, with a cc to me as General Counsel, wrote back via email, accepting Mr. Huggins’ resignation and retirement. Both parties have reasonably relied on that resignation and retirement notification in a number of ways since then. Moreover, until Mr. Campbell’s letter of yesterday, 20 days have passed since Mr. Huggins’ resignation and retirement submission with no claim by Mr. Huggins, or his other two lawyers, that he did not in fact resign and retire.

There is clearly a lot to untangle here, with a potential lawsuit coming from the man who was one of West Virginia’s most recognizable faces for 16 years.

West Virginia was already trying to move on from Huggins, who exited the program in disgrace following the slur scandal and the DUI arrest, which was his second after a previous one in 2004 while he was with Cincinnati. The school responded to the slur by suspending Huggins three games and reducing his salary by $1 million.

Legally recognized or not, Huggins’ departure led to several transfers out of West Virginia and an aborted search for his replacement. Instead, the school promoted assistant Josh Eilert to interim head coach and announced it would pursue a true successor after the 2023-24 season.

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