West Virginians seem evenly divided on whether they would support reinstatement of longtime Coach Bob Huggins at the flagship university’s basketball coach.
That’s according to the latest edition of the MetroNews West Virginia Poll.
Forty-three percent of respondents familiar with how Huggins split with West Virginia University this summer said they would support his reinstatement to his old job at West Virginia University, according to the poll.
The same number, 43 percent, said they would oppose his reinstatement.
Fourteen percent said they are not sure.
“It’s an even split. Right down the middle,” said pollster Rex Repass, president of Research America, which produces the West Virginia Poll. “And just looking at the additional data, the support for reinstatement was predominately male and predominately younger people within the ages of 18 and 24.”
Huggins split with the university in June after a Pittsburgh traffic stop that led to registering .210 on an alcohol breath test.
Not long after that, Huggins made an effort to get his job back by claiming that he never really resigned. WVU officials rejected the attempt.
His departure over the drunken driving incident followed a controversy that erupted just a few weeks earlier when Huggins made comments disparaging gay people and Catholics on a Cincinnati-area sports radio show. That incident was going to lead to a three-game suspension, a $1 million salary reduction and new year-to-year contract terms.
Most respondents to the West Virginia Poll were well aware of the incidents.
The question of whether respondents were aware of the Huggins story was the first of a series of three about the coach. Only those who said they were aware of the Huggins saga moved on to the next questions, including the one about reinstatement.
“We only asked people questions about his future if they had heard about the controversy, if they’d heard something in the news about Bob Huggins in the previous three months when this was a lead story in what was being reported around West Virginia and around the country for that matter,” Repass said.
Sixty-seven percent said they have read or heard news coverage about Huggins. Just 25 have not heard. Seven percent are not sure.
The MetroNews West Virginia Poll included 402 interviews with registered voters across all 55 counties from August 16 to 26. The confidence level is +/- 4.9 percentage points.
Huggins had a career record of 935-414, including 345-203 over 16 seasons at his alma mater in Morgantown. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2022.
Since the scandal, 46 percent of respondents say their opinions of Huggins have not changed.
Thirty seven percent say their views of the coach are more negative.
And nine percent say their perceptions since the scandal are more positive.