From Final Four to Forced Resignation: The Downfall of Bob Huggins

August 23rd 2005: the day that changed the trajectory of University of Cincinnati basketball. UC president Nancy Zimpher gave men’s basketball coach, Bob Huggins an ultimatum — resign or get fired. Huggins chose the former.  

Bob Huggins coached the University of Cincinnati’s basketball team from 1989 to 2005. He came to UC at a time the basketball team was failing. He used his recruiting and coaching skills to turn the program around. Huggins created a record of 399-127 during his time at UC, the best record UC basketball has ever seen. Huggins brought the Bearcats to 14 consecutive NCAA appearances and even a Final Four appearance in 1992. In the 2001-2002 basketball season, ESPN named him national coach of the year. 

Huggins standing with his father
Bob Huggins, left, with his father Charlie Huggins. Bob Huggins coached Cincinnati from 1989 to 2005. He led UC to a Final Four in 1992, his third season at Cincinnati. Photo provided by West Virginia Athletics.

On June 8th 2004, Huggins was arrested for DUI.  When he was stopped, Fairfax officers said Huggins had slurred speech and that he “staggered” out of the car. According to the report when asked to count backwards from 67 to 54, Huggins instead counted down from 62 to 52. The 2004 season would be Huggins last before Zimpher laid the hammer down on him just over a year later.

It wasn’t just about Huggins’ issues off the floor that led to his demise — some of his players also had their problems off the floor. 

As highlighted by Pat Forde in a 2005 ESPN article, Former UC players under Huggins Dontonio Wingfield, Donald Little, Shawn Myrick and Art Long all had run-ins with the law.

Little, who played at UC from 1998-2002, assaulted his roommate, which included Little burning him with a cigarette. Long, a key member of the 1995 team that made an Elite Eight, infamously punched a police horse. Wingfield served jail time for assaulting police officers who were responding to a call that he was allegedly beating his girlfriend. 

Not many UC’s players under Huggins were graduating either. Through one four year stretch, UC had zero players graduate. In the 16 years Huggins was in charge of the basketball team, only 27 of his 95 players graduated from UC. 

That didn’t sit well with Nancy Zimpher. When Zimpher became UC’s president, she was adamant about making academics a priority, resulting in the decision to reform the UC basketball program.

“I understand that there is often pressure to recruit people who have certain skills and not the academic skills,” Zimpher said. “We’re trying as an institution to to educate the whole person, so we want a more well-rounded student who knows why he’s coming to college and is willing to work hard.”

Zimpher’s decision sparked a national debate, with major news outlets such as ESPN, NBC, and Fox all covering the story.

Ian O’Connor of Fox Sports stated “what a better place major college athletics would be if more campus leaders had Zimpher’s fortitude and nerve,” showing his support and respect for Zimpher’s decision.

The newly promoted President of UC seemed to have the support of most, but some were still on the side of the troublesome coach. 


What do you think?

Keep Huggins!
Get him out of here!
Created with Poll Maker