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Huggins Reminisces on Akron Days, Borrowed Cow

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MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – From 1984-89, West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins coached at the University of Akron. Huggins was coming off of his first stint as a head coach at Walsh College and an assistant under role model Chuck Machock at Central Florida.

The interview process was not hard for Huggins. The deciding question that UA President Dominic Guzzetta had for Huggins was, “what’s your two favorite colors?”

The young coach at the time said, “gold and blue,” since those are Akron’s primary colors.

Huggins was hired.

Huggins stayed at Akron for five seasons. For the Zips, Huggins coached Akron to 97 wins and a NCAA Tournament appearance in 1986.

Why did Huggins stay there for so long?

“Cause no one wanted me,” Huggins said.

One of the toughest challenges for a coach at the mid-major level is trying to build an audience of fans that consistently go to the games.

In Huggins’ first game coaching at Walsh, there were 36 people in the gym to watch the game. Huggins remembers because he counted all 36 of them. Some of the brothers at the college read their books during the first half and left by halftime. After the game, Huggins told his assistant that the play of their team would eventually keep the brothers to stay for the full game.

At Akron, it was the same problem. Not as small as 36 fans but not what Huggins wanted to see.

Huggins thought outside of the box. The West Virginia native went to all of the local companies, trying to sell them tickets so that their employees would attend the games. Huggins went to Reiter Dairy to promote his basketball team.

Huggins noticed a giant cow out in the front of the store and asked if he could borrow it for a few weeks and put it in front of the arena. Sure enough, Reiter Dairy needed to advertise more and they let Huggins use it.

The Reiter Dairy Cow

“I thought it was great,” Huggins said. “You have all of these tickets.”

New president at the time William Muse did not find any positives of having a giant cow out front of the arena.

“Get rid of it,” Muse told Huggins.

Huggins was able to persuade Muse to letting him keep it until their following game was over, due to the income increase that the program was receiving.

There was nothing gifted to the fans from Reiter Dairy for attending the game.

“You got to watch me coach. You don’t think that’s enough?” Huggins said.

Huggins will welcome his former school to the WVU Coliseum on Friday night in an exhibition game, starting at 7 p.m.

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Ethan Bock is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in journalism at WVU. He currently is an intern with the Final Fourcast podcast. Ethan has covered WVU football and men’s basketball for the last year with Blue Gold Sports — an USA Today credentialed outlet. He is from Cincinnati, OH.

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