Huggins given indefinite suspension

Updated: June 16, 2004, 8:13 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

CINCINNATI -- Bob Huggins is getting a second chance.

Embarrassed by Huggins' arrest on a drunken driving charge, Cincinnati put its basketball coach on indefinite, paid suspension Saturday so he can get his life in order.

Athletic director Bob Goin declined to fix a length to the suspension, and held out the possibility Huggins could be back for next season, which would be his 16th at Cincinnati.

ESPN.com's Andy Katz reports that associate head coach Dan Peters and assistant coach Andy Kennedy will assume Huggins' duties on the road in July recruiting and, if he's still out, running practice in the fall. Peters ran practice when Huggins was out with a heart attack.

"I'm not going to say it's 60 days, 90 days, one year," Goin said. "When I feel comfortable that he's ready to resume his responsibilities, then I'll make that recommendation."

For the second time in less than 24 hours, Huggins appeared at a news conference and, with teary eyes and a halting voice, accepted responsibility. He said he would do whatever the university asks so he can return as soon as possible.

"I made a terrible mistake that I will pay deeply for," Huggins said. "My intention is to do the right things. My intention is to do everything in my power to meet whatever conditions, whatever I'm asked to do by my superiors."

Huggins declined to take questions because his case is pending in mayors court in suburban Fairfax, where he was arrested Tuesday night. The arrest report said Huggins failed a sobriety test and had vomit on the inside of his car.

Goin equated Huggins' suspension to a sabbatical that will give him time to examine his life. Huggins had a massive heart attack while recruiting 21 months ago and his mother died from cancer last year, but he has not taken time off from coaching.

Goin will meet with Huggins before deciding what he must do for reinstatement.

"This will permit him the opportunity to reflect, re-energize and update his life priorities," Goin said. "It will also let him address any personal matters which he has ignored."

Huggins will not be allowed to use his university-supplied car or expense account during his indefinite, paid suspension for drunken driving.

The university had already said that Huggins can't go to his campus office or talk with athletic recruits during his suspension. School president Nancy Zimpher announced more suspension details Wednesday.

She says Huggins cannot participate in the summer basketball youth camp on the Cincinnati campus. He also will be prohibited from participating in any activities that involve university reimbursement and will receive only his base salary and benefits. Huggins also will have no contact with the athletics department staff during his suspension.

Huggins attorney Richard Katz declined comment. Huggins' arrest came hours after he and his coaching staff met with recruit Kyle Madsen of Columbus, Ohio, Dublin High School and Madsen's family for an unofficial visit on Cincinnati's campus.

Neil Madsen, Kyle's father, told ESPN.com late Friday night that the family, Huggins and his staff had lunch on campus in the early part of the visit, but only water and soda were consumed. The five-hour meeting ended at 6 p.m., at which time Huggins went out for drinks with staff members, the source told Katz.

"We were back in Columbus by 8 p.m.," Neil Madsen told ESPN.com. "There's no connection, as far as I can tell [between the visit and Huggins' DUI incident]."

Huggins' arrest was the latest black mark on a program with a history of players getting arrested or suspended for various infractions, ranging from domestic violence to punching a police horse. Several have been acquitted or had the charges dropped.

The NCAA put the basketball program on two years' probation in 1998 for various rules violations, and stripped the university of scholarships as part of its punishment.

The NCAA concluded there was a lack of institutional control over the program. It found basketball staff members gave improper favors to players and made misleading statements to investigators.

Huggins' arrest most likely will get the attention of NCAA investigators. In the arrest report, Sgt. Jeff Bronson said Huggins told officers he had been talking to recruits and drank beer with a recruit's family Tuesday.

Huggins informed Goin of his arrest two days later. He also told Goin he wasn't recruiting, as indicated in the arrest report. Goin plans to tell the NCAA there were no recruiting violations.

"I think we'll probably be proactive on that and say it was erroneous," Goin said.

The arrest report said that when Huggins' car was stopped for drifting out of its lane, he told officers, "Don't do this to me," but was cooperative.

Huggins had slurred speech, staggered out of his car and couldn't keep his balance during a field sobriety test, according to the arrest report. Officers said he couldn't complete a breath analyzer test.

Huggins was taken to the village's police station, where his wife picked him up. He could be fined and sentenced to three days in jail on the drunken driving charge.

Huggins won't be allowed in his on-campus office during the suspension. He also is prohibited from talking to recruits while suspended, leaving those matters to his staff.

Two players from Huggins' 1992 Final Four team attended the news conference Saturday and embraced him afterward.

"He believes in this institution," former guard Tarrance Gibson said. "He doesn't take days off. It's going to hurt him, just not being here."

Corie Blount, a forward on the Final Four team, said the basketball program won't necessarily be hurt by the suspension.

"Everybody knows Cincinnati basketball is accustomed to winning," Blount said. "If we keep that tradition up, we'll be all right."

Information from ESPN.com's Andy Katz and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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