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Statement from WVU President E. Gordon Gee and Director of Athletics Wren Baker

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Statement from WVU President E. Gordon Gee and Director of Athletics Wren Baker: 

On Monday, May 8, Head Men’s Basketball Coach Bob Huggins was interviewed on a Cincinnati radio show where he used derogatory and offensive language. It was inexcusable. It was a moment that unfairly and inappropriately hurt many people and has tarnished West Virginia University.

It is also a moment that provides the opportunity for learning. A moment that can shine a light on the injustice and hate that often befall the members of our marginalized communities. While the University has never and will never condone the language used on Monday, we will use this moment to educate how the casual use of inflammatory language and implicit bias affect our culture, our community and our health and well-being.

To begin, the Athletics Department will partner with WVU’s LGBTQ+ Center to develop annual training sessions that will address all aspects of inequality including homophobia, transphobia, sexism, ableism and more. This training and programming will be required of Coach Huggins and all current and future athletics coaching staff.

Next, according to the Williams Institute, West Virginia has the highest percentage of transgender youth in the nation. To address the concerns of our West Virginia youth, Coach Huggins will be required to meet with LGBTQ+ leaders from across West Virginia with guidance from the leadership of WVU’s LGBTQ+ Center. We want to partner with ACLU-WV, Fairness WV, Morgantown Pride and other organizations to elevate the conversation regarding the issues that affect our state. Through those conversations, we expect Coach Huggins, in accordance with these partners, to engage in additional opportunities to show support for the LGBTQ+ community.

Coach Huggins also will be required to meet with leadership from WVU’s Carruth Center to better understand the mental health crisis facing our college students, particularly those in marginalized communities. It is expected he will work with the Center and the University to raise awareness on how we can best support our students’ health and well-being.

The annual compensation of Coach Huggins will be reduced by $1 million. Those dollars will be used to directly support WVU’s LGBTQ+ Center, the Carruth Center and other state and national organizations that support marginalized communities. University leadership will seek input from these organizations to determine how to best utilize those funds.

We also take seriously the disparaging way in which the Catholic faith was characterized in the comments. Coach Huggins personally volunteered and WVU agrees that he will make a substantial donation to Xavier University to support its Center for Faith and Justice and its Center for Diversity and Inclusion. 

In addition, the following actions have been taken because of this incident:        

• Coach Huggins will be suspended for the first three regular season games of the 2023-2024 season; and

• his current employment contract will be amended from a multi-year agreement to a year-by-year agreement that will begin on May 10, 2023, and end on April 30, 2024.

• We have made it explicitly clear to Coach Huggins that any incidents of similar derogatory and offensive language will result in immediate termination.

We will never truly know the damage that has been done by the words said in those 90 seconds. Words matter and they can leave scars that can never be seen. But words can also heal. And by taking this moment to learn more about another’s perspective, speak respectfully and lead with understanding, perhaps the words “do better” will lead to meaningful change for all.

E. Gordon Gee
President, West Virginia University 

Wren Baker
Vice President and Director of WVU Athletics