Bob Huggins is coming back to Cincinnati, whether Nancy Zimpher likes it or not. Lord knows that Zimpher, the UC president since 2003, has been desperately trying to avoid the inevitable as long as possible. Zimpher, as most know, was the person responsible for Huggin's ouster at the university back in 2005. There's been a lot of conjecture as to why, with reasons ranging from Hugg's DUI arrest to Zimpher's idea that the Bearcat program under Huggins didn't fit with her plan to upgrade UC's academic reputation. It's a long, sordid story, but bottom line, the man who led the University of Cincinnati from the depths of college basketball to a 399-127 record (that's an average of 24.9 wins and 7.9 losses per year) in 16 seasons was out and he didn't want to go.
After a 1-year stint at Kansas State, Huggs returned to his college alma mater, West Virginia University. For Nancy Zimpher, therein lies the rub. As we all know, the Bearcats and the Mountaineers play in the same conference, The Big East. Last year, in Huggin's first year at WV, Zimpher reportedly talked the league honchos into moving UC's home game with West Virginia to Morgantown. Lord only knows what reasons she gave (Huggins may incite a riot!), but I'm guessing she was more than a little afraid of the reception Mr. Huggins would receive when he set foot on the court at Shoemaker Center (oops, sorry, 5th Third Arena, but that's another beef).
So now, after a year delay, the time has come. The man who brought pride back to Cincinnati basketball, the man who brought The Natti to national prominence, the man who made Bearcat basketball synonymous with hard work and toughness, is back. Make no mistake, the reception will be overwhelmingly in favor of Bob Huggins. The good things he did for the city, his athletes, and the University of Cincinnati renders any other type of reception impossible. Nancy Zimpher evidently never realized what Huggs meant to the city, but Cincinnatians and true fans of Bearcat basketball know. Sure, he made mistakes, but balanced against the positives he brought to UC, the negatives seem almost inconsequential.
Oh, in the long run things turned out great for Huggs. He's comfortable, he's appreciated, and he's home. He's loved in Morgantown, just as he was by the vast majority in Cincinnati. He's there for the long haul, and there he will retire. Good for him.
Nancy Zimpher is leaving UC for another job this summer, off to upgrade the academic reputation of another school. What she leaves in her wake is a basketball program that has lost its edge, its fire, and its heart. Perhaps that's precisely what she wanted. That heart, gone from Cincinnati, can now be found some 300-miles away in West Virginia. Make no mistake, the folks there love and appreciate it.
It'll be strange seeing Bob Huggins in the arena where he once prowled the sidelines, wearing blue & gold rather than red & black. But there he will be on Thursday, ripping the refs and getting the best out of his players.
Too bad that, after all he'd given the University of Cincinnati, in the end the University of Cincinnati didn't give their best for Huggs.