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Huggins resigns

Coach loses power struggle, accepts $3M buyout

Posted: Wednesday August 24, 2005 3:50PM; Updated: Thursday August 25, 2005 1:45AM
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Bob Huggins
Bob Huggins, shown here in a May 16 press conference, will resign from his post at Cincinnati.

CINCINNATI (AP) -- All that Bob Huggins can do now is negotiate terms of his surrender.

One of the country's most successful basketball coaches agreed to step down Wednesday at Cincinnati, coming out on the wrong end of a power struggle with a willful university president.

Huggins, 51, will get an approximate $3 million buyout for leaving the only job he wanted. He left his attorney's office Wednesday wearing a black Cincinnati jacket, declining comment because parts of the buyout were still being negotiated.

"We are working on the details of the agreement, which may or may not be finalized in the next 24 hours," said Richard Katz, Huggins' attorney.

Still up for discussion are exactly when he will leave and how much he will get. The school has offered him a chance to stay in an advisory role for three months, helping with the transition from big-name coach to lame-duck interim.

The Bearcats will have to slog through their first season in the Big East with no chance of landing top-notch recruits. No player will commit to a school that doesn't have a head coach.

The fallout could affect the program for years.

"They're going to have to get a coach as good as Bob Huggins, and that's not easy to find," said Louisville coach Rick Pitino, a friend. "But if they can attract someone of the caliber of Bob Huggins, they can certainly continue."

Zimpher will be looking for someone who is the antithesis of Huggins, who liked hard-edged recruits and overlooked his players' shortcomings as long as they won. The third-year president has her eye more on national academic rankings than the Top 25.

During his 16 seasons, which included a Final Four appearance and No. 1 rankings, Huggins knew he was king of the hilltop college. He learned this week that someone else with a different philosophy and more clout owns the hill.

"It could happen to anyone when you get hired by a different president," Pitino said. "There's a difference in philosophies. It happens. It's a change in CEOs. They have their own people, their own philosophies, and it's different than what Bob stands for."

Zimpher sent Huggins an ultimatum on Tuesday: step down or be fired. He agreed to take the buyout a day later, but the sides were still negotiating the details.

The school sent Huggins a letter, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, offering a chance to stay for three more months in an advisory role. He would make $110,000 per month, part of the overall $3 million buyout.

"His duties will include providing information about the current team, identifying and commenting upon potential recruits, and documenting his institutional memory of the basketball program during his 16-year coaching tenure," the letter said.

Huggins' ouster has angered boosters and left fans shocked by the timing. The school has been celebrating its entrance into the Big East as a milestone. The ouster soured those festive feelings.

A handful of students demonstrated in front of the administration building on Wednesday, holding up signs supporting Huggins. Fall quarter classes don't start until Sept. 21, and the administration is hoping that emotions will have cooled by then.

Zimpher and Huggins had been at odds since his arrest and conviction for drunken driving last year, with tensions escalating as time went on.

He was finally forced out less than two months before the start of basketball practice.

"If Zimpher was going to get rid of him, she should have done it after the DUI and not waited until now when it's so close to the start of the season," said junior Alan Gerken.

Cincinnati fans have readily forgiven players for suspensions and arrests because the program has been so successful. Huggins was immensely popular because he put the school in the national spotlight, even if it came with a price.

"We knew what kind of player he recruited, but who cared?" Gerken said.

Jason Rankine, 20, expects the debate over Huggins' ouster to last a long time.

"I think it may die down for a while and then flare up again when basketball season starts, especially if they are losing," said Rankine, a junior from Dayton. "He was a big moneymaker and he brought in a lot of fans. It is going to be a tough year."