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The Demise Of Bob Huggins

The reaction in Cincinnati to the ultimatum given to Bob Huggins (resign or
be fired) has been fast and furious.

The Cincinnati Enquirer has a page up for people to make comments about the
situation, and the posts have been overwhelmingly angry.

And surprisingly, Nick Lachey, husband of Jessica Simpson, was wound up
enough to write an article for the Cincinnati paper which sums up the basic
position of the Supporters Of Bob (S.O.B's? Nahhh....)

We've listened to Cincinnati talk radio today via the Web and can't remember
hearing a single comment against Huggins.

We're guessing unless you live in Cincinnati, you can't really understand the
hold Huggins has on the city's affection.

And yet.

It's hard to overlook some things. One of the dissenting posts on the
Enquirer's site read: "My favorite memory is when the player punched the police horse. No, it was when the one player used drugs and never got booted off the team. No, it was when the one player duct taped his roommate to the chair and beat him up. No, it was when the one player beat up his pregnant girlfriend and didnt
(sic) get booted off the team. No, it was when the one player stole the University phone charge number and ran up a big bill and never got booted."

We have a Cincinnati fan who writes periodically to protest and say that
these charges are usually not quite accurate, and that the Bearcats actually do
graduate players. We just wanted to publicly note that to save him the
time from saying it again.

The correspondence
between attorneys
, which is out, is revealing. Monica Rimai, general
counsel for the University, and Richard L. Katz, who represents Huggins, starts
off quite cordially, although Mr. Katz, who seems to be a bit of a
rah-rah-go-team type, perhaps made a mistake in addressing her by her first

Well at least until her letter of August 8th. While relentlessly
professional and cordial, Rimai really goes in for the kill:

  • "...If the past is indeed prologue, Mr. Huggins' actual track record
    of behavior belies an ability to deliver on his purported commitment."
  • "For example, the information you have shared with me states
    that over the course of his career at UC, 27 of his players....have
    eventually graduated from UC or another University. It is
    important, however, that we put that number into context. While
    coaching at UC, 95 students have either played for or been recruited by Mr.
    Huggins. Thus, according to your data, less than 30 percent of your
    client's players have graduated or gone on to success in the NBA.
    Moreover, twenty-seven graduates over sixteen years averages out to less
    than two per year, a rather unimpressive number given that first and
    foremost, UC is in the business of educating and graduating its
  • "In fact, according to [the] NCAA...since the 1990 recruiting class
    the overall graduation rate for UC basketball players is 20 percent, the
    lowest graduation rate of all athletic teams at UC. In four of nine
    reporting years, the graduation rate was zero."
  • "Moreover, by the end of this past Spring quarter the basketball team
    had posted the lowest average GPA of any other team in the athletic
    department. Of the players on that team, one student had a 0.0 gpa
    during the spring quarter, another would have, but for two incompletes, and
    two other students withdrew altogether...these 27 [graduates] are the
    exception not the rule for hte basketball program during the last 16
  • "In addition, Mr. Huggins continues to recruit individuals that
    exhibit a disregard for the law and respectful behavior....For UC basketball
    recruit (sic) classes between 1990 and 2006, 21 of Mr. Huggins players have
    had significant encounters with law enforcement, most of those consisting of
    arrests, with many ending in convictions. This disturbing pattern
    continues right up to the present as three of Mr. Huggins' recruits or
    players have had very serious charges brought against them during the past
    year. Mr. Huggins' own behavior over the course of the last sixteen
    years, both on and off the court, demonstrates an inability to consistently
    model disciplined and professional conduct."
  • "In short, although Mr. Huggins' may claim some specific successes,
    the University is seeking an environment and climate where the development
    of the whole student is sought and the successful education of all our
    students is realized. And while some may argue that academically
    challenged individuals who experience difficulty conforming their behavior
    to appropriate norms deserve a chance at success that a winning collegiate
    basketball team can provide, UC believes that it can better advance its
    mission by building a winning program around scholar-athletes who earn
    degrees that will allow them to succeed not only in athletics but more
    importantly in life generally."

After this letter, Katz, obviously infuriated, drops any attempt at
salutation, and simply starts his letter: "This will acknowledge receipt of
your letter dated August 8..."

Up until this point, having no dog in this fight, we found Rimai to be the
smoother of the two attorneys, and certainly the more articulate. At right
about here is where Katz just starts letting it fly:

  • "Although responding to the University's allegations means that I
    stoop to it's level I find it necessary on behalf of my client to refute the
    absurd contentions."
  • "I also submit that the University speaks out of both sides of its
    mouth. It cannot make positive contributions towards solving economic and
    social challenges while at the same time casting aside those who may come to
    it for help as a result of economic and/or social disadvantages."
  • "Your suggestion that earning a degree is the only road to success in
    life flies directly in the face of and is a direct slap in the face
    to...Kenyon Martin, Nick Van Exel and others who have made millions [in the
  • "...[m]any of the wealthiest individuals in the nation have built
    their wealth without college degrees. Bill Gates is one who comes to
    mind. These people probably believe that they are successful."
  • "Furthermore, the statement that he continues to recruit individuals
    'that exhibit a disregard for hte law and respectful behavior' demeans
    everyone that he has recruited. Are you familiar with the facts
    surrounding each of the alleged '21 players' who have had significant
    encounters with law enforcement'?
  • "My client would also like to know what is meant by the
    characterization that 'the profile of the 2005-06 men's basketball team
    projects limited academic success and off-court discipline problems'?
    Has there been some expert evaluation that my client and his staff are
    unaware of or is this based upon an expert evaluation of someone not
    qualified to make such a statement? ... Shall we suggest to the
    basketball team that they are expected to fail and cause off the court
    problems this year since that is what their 'profile' indicates?"
  • "If the University desires to sever it's relationship with Bob
    Huggins then we are demanding $3,630,000...we will agree to negotiate the
    manner of payment. The alternative is a guaranteed extension to a
    total of five (5) years or a restoration of the four year roll-over
  • "Please be further advised that this demand will remain open until 9
    am on Tuesday, August 16, 2005. I cannot guarantee confidentiality
    after that time if this matter is not resolved."

The sarcasm and the threat Katz employed did not have a positive
effect. Back to the unflappable Rimai, whose response is pretty much an
instant classic:

  • "Dear Mr. Katz...Thank you for contacting me on August 9...regarding
    my letter of August 8...discussing the termination of Mr. Huggins'
    employment relationship with the University...and your letter of August
    12...also in response to my August 8th letter. I appreciate your
    candor regarding this manner. Suffice it to say that our clients have
    remarkably different perspectives on the present situation, lending further
    credence to the notion that it is time for the University and Mr. Huggins to
    part company."

Ms. Rimai then spells out the specific legalities, which you can read for
yourself, before slipping in a very professional insult: "...[you] argue
that because UC failed to give subsequent notice, there remains three years on
Mr. Huggins employment contract, not the two that we have discussed during the
course of our negotiations. Frankly, Mr. Katz, I simply do not follow your
logic on this claim."

Rimai continues:

  • "On May 11, 2005, a meeting did take discuss your client's
    employment status. At the meeting, Mr. Huggins was presented several
    options to consider [about ending his career at UC]...the University
    directed Mr. Huggins to consider these options and to then contact Mr.
    Wesner, through you, with a decision....Neither you nor Mr. Huggins
    contacted UC as directed by the institution...Instead, Mr. Huggins held a
    press conference..where he announced that he planned on fulfilling his
    current contract instead of retiring...Perhaps more importantly, a continued
    long term employment relationship...makes little sense as a practical matter
    given all that has transpired in the media since May 11th....In sum, UC
    intends to terminate your client's contract...without cause..on a date
  • "While there are significant differences between our clients'
    positions, with some creativity and a willingness to consider alternative
    approaches, I still believe we can find a mutually acceptable
    compromise. I do not believe, however, that we can find such a
    resolution if the matter once again becomes headline news. In my
    experience, public negotations are never productive because they stifle
    creativity and discourage candor. Indeed, I suspect earlier opportunities to
    resolve this situation were lost because of hyperbole and misrepresentations
    in the media...That said, you were very clear in your August 12th letter
    that after Tuesday morning you would no longer be bound by our
    confidentiality agreement. Let me be equally clear in saying that UC
    will not negotiate a resolution of this matter in the media, but instead,
    will execute its rights under the existing contract.

On August 15, Katz restored salutations, addressing her as "Dear Ms.
Rimai." The letter is terse, only six paragraphs, contesting again
the length of the contract and again demanding a list of the 21 players who had
contact with the judicial system.

In Rimai's answer on August 23, the repeated warnings come to fruition:

  • "In addition, notwithstanding our agreement ot keep this matter
    confidential, information has been communicated to members of the media and
    influential members of, regarding our meeting last Friday,
    and the status of negotiations generally. Accordingly, it is
    imperative that we resolve this matter quickly to avoid further speculation
    and rumor. To this end, I will need to hear from you by Wednesday,
    August 24, 2005, at 2:00 p.m. regarding this offer; otherwise, the
    University will exercise its right to terminate Mr. Huggins' employment
    without cause pursuant to the clear and plain meaning of his employment

She then offers a timeline of events which led to this point.

Kind, but unnecessary: she has pretty much eviscerated him.

And while the University seems to have the law on its side, the Huggins camp
clearly has the mob in their corner, and there is some indication in these
documents that they mean to use it.

Rimai clearly understands the implicit threat Katz makes when he suggests
breaking that he may start talking publicly. After reading the comments
readers posted on and listening to some of the worst sports talk
radio we've ever heard, it's clearly a potent weapon.

And for Huggins, it's a familiar weapon. His teams try to use
intimidation, and at times, they do it well.

The problem with that as a coaching style is that when teams get past the
intimidation, much like with bullies, there's not much left.

The same goes for this legal dispute. Rather than negotiate rationally,
the Huggins camp chose to use sarcasm and attempted to intimidate the University
by threatening to go public.

Didn't work.

You can agree or disagree with President
Nancy Zimpher's
desire to raise standards across the board at Cincinnati,
but it's hard to argue with this: she engaged in a high-stakes poker game with
Huggins and won. When the emotions of the day wear off, and people realize
that he was essentially trying to blackmail the school, things may change

Or they may not, and she may get run out of town.

That won't change the fact that she's very courageous. In fact, dumping
Huggins may turn her into a hero among academics.

And at the end of the day, Huggins also has to face up to this: he has
managed to intimidate a lot of men in basketball.

But two women who are new to their jobs at Cincinnati refused to back
down. And that's the way it ended for old-school Bob Huggins.