Two years remain on coach's deal

CINCINNATI -- Cincinnati coach Bob Huggins decided on Monday to accept the school's decision limiting him to a two-year contract, a sticking point that could flare into a bigger issue down the line.

The university stripped a rollover provision from Huggins' contract after his arrest and conviction for drunken driving last year. The provision automatically added a year onto his contract each summer, keeping it a four-year deal.

University president Nancy Zimpher notified Huggins last week that he again would not get the extension, leaving him with a two-year deal. Huggins had to decide whether to accept it or take a buyout provision in his contract.

"I plan on fulfilling my contract," Huggins said Monday night. "I love the players. I think I have an obligation to them, certainly to their families and the fans in the city of Cincinnati.

"People here have been unbelievable. They've supported me, certainly, when I needed support. They've always been there," he said.

Huggins is 399-127 in 16 seasons at Cincinnati, which he rebuilt into a nationally prominent program after years of disarray. His teams have made 14 consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament and reached the Final Four in 1992.

The program also has a history of player arrests and infractions. The program went on two years' probation in 1998 after the NCAA concluded there was a lack of institutional control over the men's basketball program.

Huggins was arrested last June and pleaded no contest to driving under the influence. He was ordered to attend a three-day intervention program, and the school suspended him with pay for two months.

Huggins declined to take questions Monday night following his three-minute, off-the-cuff statement. He was diplomatic about the school's decision, saying other coaches won't have their contracts extended until a new athletic director is in place. Bob Goin plans to retire in one year.

"I have every confidence that everything will work out fine, as it always has," Huggins said.

The Bearcats failed to win the Conference USA championship and were knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in the second round last season, their last before moving to the Big East. Zimpher didn't want to discuss Huggins' contract status with him until after the spring recruiting season.

After the season ended, the program's problems multiplied. Assistant coach Keith LeGree was suspended after he was charged with drunken driving. Last Tuesday, freshman forward Roy Bright was dismissed from the team after acknowledging that he had a firearm on campus.

Questions have been raised about whether recruits would be wary of coming to a program where the coach has only a two-year deal and doesn't appear to have the full support of the school president.

"I know there's been some concern about what it does for recruiting and those kinds of things," Huggins said. "In 1993, I had one year left on my contract. Nobody really made a big deal out of it. I certainly didn't make a big deal out of it. It didn't affect recruiting one way or another."

The university had no comment beyond a statement confirming that Huggins had accepted its decision.