Huggy Bear’s Slur Puts WVU in a Tough Spot

Thom Weidlich 05.18.23


Bob Huggins, the men’s basketball coach at West Virginia University, did a radio interview during which he used an anti-gay slur and also managed to disparage Catholics. This put the school in a difficult position. We think it ultimately handled the situation well, though others disagree.

WVU issued a brief statement that same day, May 8, saying Huggins’ remarks were “insensitive, offensive and do not represent our university values.” It said the school and its athletics department would review and address the incident.

Huggins, 69, also issued an apology the same day for his “completely insensitive and abhorrent phrase.” He wrote: “As I have shared with my players over my 40 years of coaching, there are consequences for our words and actions, and I will fully accept any coming my way.”

Beloved Figure

The school, in Morgantown, had a dilemma as to what to do. Huggins, who’s coached the West Virginia Mountaineers since 2007, is a beloved local figure — he’s nicknamed “Huggy Bear.” At the same time, it’s not unusual for someone to be fired for a foul such as this, and debate arose about whether he should be. Morgantown Pride, a local LGBTQ+ group, called for him to be let go.

There were other complications. Huggins’ rep isn’t pristine. In 2005, he unceremoniously left his coaching gig at the University of Cincinnati partly due to his DUI arrest. In 2020 he had former Cincinnati Reds announcer Thom Brennaman — who had been fired for using the same anti-gay slur — speak to the WVU team about accountability. Some said Huggins didn’t learn from Brennaman’s bad example.

What to do? What to do?

Salary Cut

WVU’s full response came two days later, on May 10. It put out a long statement saying what actions the school would take. And it was a lot. Huggins’ annual salary will be reduced from about $4 million to about $3 million and his contract will now be year-to-year rather than multiyear. The saved money will support LGBTQ+ and other marginalized communities. A three-game suspension was imposed. And Huggy Bear will undergo sensitivity training.


As I have shared with my players over my 40 years of coaching, there are consequences for our words and actions, and I will fully accept any coming my way.

— Bob Huggins


The school also informed him that any similar future incident will result in his firing.

Some people think the punishment is too lenient. One benefactor has said he will switch his donations from the athletics program to the school itself. But, in this age of cancel culture, we think WVU took the situation seriously and imposed heavy corrective measures. Huggins has to know he must now be on his best behavior.

The incident shows the difficulty of deciding how to respond to a blow to one’s reputation. But it doesn’t always require the ultimate punishment.

Image credit: Gearstd/Shutterstock

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