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Not in their best interests

Major programs should be leery of hiring Huggins

Posted: Wednesday March 22, 2006 1:31PM; Updated: Wednesday March 22, 2006 7:34PM
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Last season, Bob Huggins took Cincinnati to the second round of the NCAA tournament, where the Bearcats lost to Kentucky.
Last season, Bob Huggins took Cincinnati to the second round of the NCAA tournament, where the Bearcats lost to Kentucky.
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While most of the college basketball world is focused on the NCAA tournament, it seems a different sort of March Madness has taken hold of certain fans in Big 12 country. Call it Bob Huggins Fever.

According to reports, prominent Missouri boosters have been lobbying AD Mike Alden to hire the ex-Cincinnati coach to replace the departed Quin Snyder. Similar sentiments are being voiced by backers of Kansas State, who even set up a Web site, http://www.hirehuggy.com/, which includes a doctored photo of Huggins roaming the sideline in a K-State pullover.

Saner heads are apparently prevailing at Missouri. According to Wednesday's Kansas City Star, Alden has declined to interview Huggins, much to the chagrin of former Tigers standout and search-committee member Jon Sundvold. When Sundvold, who is leading the charge to hire Huggins, voiced his displeasure to university chancellor Brady Deaton, he reportedly told Sundvold he "wasn't comfortable" with Huggins.

Here's hoping other major programs with coaching openings will follow Missouri's lead.

In the current climate of college sports, with the NCAA putting greater emphasis than ever on academic reform and ethical behavior, any athletic director or university president who signs off on Huggins might as well hold up a huge poster that says, "We don't care about anything but winning."

Cincinnati operated under that mantra for 16 years before new president Nancy Zimpher finally stepped in and instilled some much-needed priorities (though her handling of the situation left a whole lot to be desired). To this day, Huggins remains universally revered in the Queen City for returning its flagship program to national prominence. That its place in the limelight had as much to do with player arrests and poor graduation rates as it did conference titles and NCAA tournament appearances never seemed to faze most Cincinnatians -- and apparently, that extends to victory-starved fans lobbying to hire Huggins as well.

You can't blame fans for their misplaced enthusiasm. They're fans. They want to win. They know Huggins will do that. University administrators, however, are theoretically bound to act in the best interest of their school, whether or not that jives with fans' wishes. Suffice to say, hiring Huggins would not be in a school's best interests.