Saturday, March 23, 2002

Huggins denies deal finalized with W. Virginia


CBS reports he's going

By Michael Perry, mperry@enquirer.com
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        If indeed University of Cincinnati basketball coach Bob Huggins already has decided to become the next coach at West Virginia, UC athletic officials say that would be news to them.

        And perhaps news to Huggins himself.

        CBS SportsLine.com, FOXSports.com and The Sporting News Web site reported Friday that Huggins intends to leave UC after 13 seasons to take over at his alma mater.

        Some of the stories indicated Huggins wants to wait until UC players return from spring break Monday so he can tell them in person.

        But Huggins called WCPO-TV sports anchor Dennis Janson Friday night, saying he has not made a decision and he was not meeting with Columbus-based lawyer Bret Adams in Columbus to finalize a deal.

        “I can't use my office,” Huggins told Janson. “People are camped out there. I'm just trying to step back and take some time.”

        Huggins also said: “I've never asked UC for anything, contrary to what people want to say. (UC athletic director) Bob Goin has been terrific. He's come to me at the end of every year and wanted to make things better.”

        The Charleston Gazette is reporting today that Huggins' West Virginia-based legal representative, Steve Farmer, met Friday with West Virginia president David Hardesty and AD Ed Pastilong in Morgantown and planned to meet again today.

        “I spent the day meeting with university officials,” Farmer said. “I anticipate working again with them. The report from CBS Sportsline is absolutely not true. There is no deal. We're working. That's as far as you can go.”

        Goin had a lengthy meeting with Huggins on Thursday night, and the two spoke again Friday. Huggins told Goin on both occasions that he had not made a decision.

        Huggins' relationship with Goin is so strong — and would be one of the reasons he would stay at UC — it's unlikely he would mislead his boss, not to mention his staff or players.

        Huggins, 48, was in the Shoemaker Center basketball office briefly Friday before leaving for Columbus, according to UC officials. He could not be reached for comment.

        The Sporting News reported that Huggins has not officially accepted the WVU position and noted that “he has made up his mind to leave Cincinnati in the past, only to change it and remain.”

        “He's telling people he's going to go; that's what the story says,” said Dan Wetzel of CBS SportsLine, the first to report Huggins is leaving UC.

        CBS SportsLine quoted a source as saying Huggins said: “I'm taking it. We are going to get this thing going at West Virginia.”

        The Internet reports are “premature” according to a West Virginia source close to the negotiations in a story on wvmetronews.com, which reported Huggins had yet to receive a formal written offer.

        Yet the CBS Sportsline report detailed a contract offer from West Virginia that included a higher base salary, incentives for NCAA Tournament berths, Big East Conference success and attendance increases, a percentage of gate receipts if attendance increases, use of a private airplane for recruiting trips, an increase in budget for staffing and the use of charter flights for the Mountaineers' road games.

        The Web site said UC would not match WVU's offer.

        Goin said Friday night, “There has been no offer to even look at,” adding, “My job every year is to see what this program needs to get better.”

        Goin previously told the Enquirer “there's nothing that (Huggins) has asked for that we can't accommodate.”

        UC sports information director Tom Hathaway said that if Huggins remains at UC, his total annual package, with incentives, will be more than $1.3 million.

        The West Virginia package was reported earlier in the week to be in the $1.2million and $1.3 million range.

        Goin has said this is not a financial issue, but more a question of whether Huggins wants to return to West Virginia and face a new challenge.

        Huggins, who was born in Morgantown, W.Va., played basketball at West Virginia.

       



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