Endowment fund for Huggins' mom nears $500,000
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Those who follow college basketball and West Virginia know, that in the last nine months, Bob Huggins has coached another 20-win team to a fourth consecutive NCAA bid.
He has also landed the largest recruiting class (seven major college rookies and two Atlantic 10 transfers) of his three-decade career.
What many don't know is that Huggins, 57, has stepped up another effort with a special dedication in his native state.
Since last Labor Day weekend, thanks mostly to three "roasts" or "salute" dinners headlined by the veteran Mountaineer coach, the cancer research endowment fund dedicated on his mother's behalf has Huggins closing in on the $500,000 mark.
"The great thing is that when we do these things, most of the money is matched by the state (through the West Virginia Research Trust Fund, a $35 million Legislature-approved funding vehicle available through 2015 to WVU)," Huggins said. "We know we have a long way to go.
"We need to have enough money to be able to really do something. I've been involved with a lot of charities in my coaching career, but this is a special deal, and not just because of my mom.
"The money stays here in the state, here at the university, to benefit people in West Virginia. To me, that's a whole lot better than some national organization where you really don't know exactly where the money goes."
The Norma Mae Huggins Cancer Research Fund is based at WVU's Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center. Will Armistead, the cancer center's director of development, said the Huggins Fund, with matches received and those pending, "is a little north of $467,000 right now."
Before the coach's concerted efforts to boost the fund, Armistead said, that number was in the $35,000-38,000 range.
Most of that came from family contributions - Huggins would put money from his speaking engagements in the pot - and memorial gifts after Norma Mae Huggins' death from colon cancer in 2003.
In the last nine months, Huggins roasts and dinners in Morgantown (approximately $108,000), Washington, Pa. ($60,000) and Fairmont ($40,000) have provided matchable funds.
Added to that, the coach said, is the sale of stuffed "Huggie Bear" toys - with the bear's face resembling the coach's mug - and T-shirts by his sister, Debbie Huggins Bradford, and the WVU Hospitals gift shop, has yielded another $10,000 (huggiebearproducts.com).
"Huggs intends to keep doing this," Armistead said. "The first (roast) he got it rolling, but since then people have come to him (from The Meadows Racetrack in Washington, Pa., and Westchester Village in Fairmont, through Huggins' good friend, Jim Sears) about doing these dinners.
"He tells them, 'These are my rules,' and it goes from there. His goal is to get a couple million dollars in there at least. You don't touch the principle. The interest earnings provide the funds. We apply to the state for the matching funds."
The money is deposited at the WVU Foundation in two accounts, Armistead said.
"We didn't do much with the fund until the (roast) here," Huggins said. We've got to get it to the point where we actually have enough to do some really good things ... and we will.
"The (roast) here was a good start and the last two were just great. People came to us. Once word gets out, people want to help. Everybody is affected by cancer in one way or another, lost someone in their family or someone they knew well, and it's a cause everyone can relate to."
Armistead said Huggins was specific about the way his mother's cancer endowment fund was to be established and run - and it was rooted in their home state.
"The great thing is coach keeps the money here," Armistead said. "I think that's remarkable, considering who he is, an elite coach with a big name, and he could easily do something like this on a national basis.
"But he and his family decided to keep it here. He wants it to be special."
Contact Sports Editor Jack Bogaczyk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-7949.