Posted: Wednesday August 24, 2005 7:11PM; Updated: Thursday August 25, 2005 12:00AM
Naturally, this has made UC president Nancy Zimpher a pariah in the Queen City. While I was certainly critical of the way Zimpher bungled Huggins' situation this summer, I am not going to join the lynch mob on this one. I can't help but notice that many of the people who are ripping Zimpher are the same folks who constantly rail against the greedy, hypocritical, just-win-baby mentality exuded by many so-called academic officials these days. How many times do you hear a university president say how important it is to graduate players and conduct a clean program -- then turn around a fire a coach who graduates players and runs a clean program but doesn't win enough games? Here we have a president who actually walks the walk, and yet she's pilloried for it. Not in this space, gentle reader.
The reality is Zimpher should have fired Huggins following his DUI arrest in June 2004. It would have been a clean break for both Huggins and the school. But Zimpher had only taken the president's job eight months before, and at the time she either didn't have the support of her Board of Trustees or she lacked the moxie to pull the trigger. Even more inexplicable was her decision this past May not to roll over Huggins' contract beyond the next two years instead of simply cutting him loose. On Tuesday, Zimpher tried to justify that move by saying it was a nod to Huggins' long service to the university, but the truth is she was trying to split the baby and it didn't work.
In the end, Huggins was the one who decided that he could not work at (and recruit to) Cincinnati with two years remaining on a contract that was not going to be extended. He did not want to work for a university president who didn't want him around. So he forced Zimpher's hand, working out a lucrative buyout for himself. He made his choice, and Zimpher made hers. She would rather have a basketball program that loses than one that wins but doesn't meet her standards. For the forseeable future, it looks like she'll have her wish.