MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports­­

Had an English Lit professor at West Virginia University said it, he would have been on the street faster than Dickens could have mentioned the worst of times.

Had WVU President E. Gordon Gee said it, he’d have been booking another one-way trip to Columbus, where he said in 2013, “You just can’t trust those damn Catholics on a Thursday or a Friday;” and oh, yes, had WVU head football coach Neal Brown said it, there would have been no concerns over the buyout because he would have given the university just cause to send him along his way.

So what in the hell was Bob Huggins, the highest-paid public employee in the state, thinking when he said it live on WLW Radio in Cincinnati not once, but twice, within a matter of seconds? What could have possibly been running through his mind?

Why was it even in his mind?

Huggins outed himself with his cavalier attitude in going for the laugh by using that “locker room talk” (wink, wink) that we’ve been hearing so much about these days. But it wasn’t funny, no matter how hard the sycophant radio hosts on the show laughed. It wasn’t funny because it’s not funny.

Huggins, who had great success as the head coach at Cincinnati, was asked whether he had “poached any Xavier guys to come to West Virginia” in the transfer portal, as West Virginia currently has the No. 1-rated transfer portal class for next season. Xavier, the private Catholic university, is located in Cincinnati.

“Catholics don’t do that,” Huggins replied. “Any school that can throw rubber penises on the floor and then say they didn’t do it, my god, they can get away with anything.”

One of the show hosts then made a comment that it was “transgender night” at the game Huggins was referring to when Xavier fans threw sex toys onto the court.

That’s when Huggins went anti-gay.

“What it was,” he said, “was all those f**s, those Catholic f**s, I think. They were envious they didn’t have one.”

That’s so funny. No, not at all.

My guess is Huggins hasn’t given much thought to gay people, good or bad, in his entire life. Hall of Fame basketball coaches are generally too occupied with winning basketball games to think about too much else.

That isn’t to say Huggins is oblivious to what takes place in the real world, for since his mother died of colon cancer, he has raised millions of dollars for cancer care and treatment for a lot of people in the state of West Virginia.

So why would he say something so hurtful on live radio, not once, but twice? And why, for worse measure, would he denigrate an entire religion along the way to make it all even more offensive?

It didn’t take long for Huggins to issue an apology on his Twitter feed, saying “I used a completely insensitive and abhorrent phrase there is simply no excuse for – and I will not try to make one here …

“There are consequences for our words and actions, and I will fully accept any coming my way. I am ashamed and embarrassed and heartbroken for those I have hurt. I must do better, and I will.”

I wonder if Huggins realizes that players who are on his roster, players who have been on his previous rosters and much of the WVU student body are among those he has hurt, as for years, surveys of young Americans have consistently shown overwhelming support of the LGBTQ community, as many college-age students grew up in and around the LGBTQ community and have gay and transgender friends.

A Gallup poll of 2022 showed the number of American adults who identified as LGBTQ doubled in a decade from 3.5% of adults to 7.1%. The increase is driven by Generation Z, people born from 1997 to 2004, and it continues to go younger than that.

“Coach Huggins’ remarks today on a Cincinnati radio show were insensitive, offensive and do not represent our university values,” read a statement released by the university shortly after the comments were made. “West Virginia University does not condone the use of such language and takes such actions very seriously. The situation is under review and will be addressed by the university and its athletic department.”

Clearly, West Virginia athletic director Wren Baker, who is still in his first year on the job, will not have to be reminded that this is real, and not mere antics of a cartoonish and bullying Coach Harris in “Revenge of the Nerds,” although it could easily seem to be that way if action isn’t taken. After all, perception has long been said to be reality and aren’t WVU and the state of West Virginia as a whole unfair targets of ugly perception far too much as it is?

Does a world-class institute of higher learning want to reinforce these untrue and unfair perceptions by doing nothing or will it simply be a matter of not caring because the powerful and entitled basketball coach who has put the university squarely on the spot generates entirely too much revenue for the university to care what comes out of his mouth when he is representing the university?

That is a perception, I feel, West Virginia University does not want to exist.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT