Thursday, February 2, 2023

Holgorsen Whines Before Entering Big 12

Morgantown, West Virginia - Former West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen's Houston Cougars have not even played a game in the Big 12 Conference yet and he is already makes excuses. Holgorsen, who was 61-41 in 8 seasons with the Mountaineers and is 27-20 in 4 seasons at Houston, spoke to the Houston media yesterday and came up with a bunch of excuses why his team won't be successful in the Big 12. "From the University of Houston's perspective, it's awesome to be a part of it. But you look at it and you go, 'Woo, that's going to be pretty challenging.' So, let's get to work. We've got a lot to do," he said. "We better be doing things institutionally to give us a chance. That's real. I know what football needs to look like and we're going to continue to improve it, continue to make progress when it comes to on-the-field product. Institutionally, we've got a lot of work to do. "Now we need everybody to kind of put their money where their mouth is, so to speak. We've been wanting this for a long time, so now's the time to step up," Holgorsen added. "There's just so many things that need to be done. I don't think people realize what other people have and what we need. I'm not going to be shy when I say that, because I've been at three of those institutions and I know what they have and how much work that they put in over the last three decades. We've got some catching up to do." Holgorsen does have a point. Houston is dead last donations and fundraising in the new Big 12 by a large margin, and competing with other schools in the conference in NIL and recruiting will be extremely challenging if things don't change quickly. West Virginia will get its first shot at Holgorsen's Houston Cougars in the Big 12 on October 12th in Houston.

Sunday Morning Editorial: The Dark Days of West Virginia Sports

Morgantown, West Virginia - At no point in the history of West Virginia athletics has the football and basketball programs collectively been in such bad shape at the same time. The numbers don't lie and unfortunately West Virginia has been the worst program in the Big 12 Conference over the last 5 years. It's never been easy to be a West Virginia fan. There has been plenty of heartache and frustration over the years, but at this point we're approaching complete, widespread apathy. In football, West Virginia is 14-21 in conference play since Neal Brown has been the head coach of the Mountaineers. Only Texas Tech (13-23) and Kansas (5-30) have been worse. Overall, Brown is 22-25, West Virginia has not been in the Top 25 since 2018, there have been zero program-defining wins, no progress on the field, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel for the Mountaineers. West Virginia was 5-7 last season. While the fanbase will be told to trust the people in charge, it's difficult to see any reason for hope in 2023. West Virginia has lost numerous quality, proven players to the transfer portal and graduation and have gained mostly players who have performed well at the Group of 5 level. Adding players from Kent State, Middle Tennessee State, Towson, etc., will never be adequate enough to improve a failing Power 5 team like the Mountaineers. Yes, West Virginia also added a tight end from LSU (Kole Taylor - 5 catches, 55 yards last season), a wide receiver from NC State (25 receptions, 406 yards, 2 touchdowns in 2022) and a solid defensive lineman from Penn State (Fatorma Mulbah - no stats in 2022), but no one Neal Brown and his staff have added this offseason can come close to replacing players like Bryce Ford-Wheaton, Charles Woods, Kaden Prather, Jordan Jefferson, Mumu Bin-Wahad, JT Daniels, among many others. So the question begging to be asked is, if West Virginia was bad last year, how are they going to be better next season by downgrading their talent? A few of the new players may certainly be quality additions who could help the team, but it's simply impossible to argue that the Mountaineers have upgraded in any way heading into 2023. With a legendary, Hall of Fame head coach, you'd expect the basketball program to be in better shape, but that simply isn't the case. Over the past 5 years, West Virginia is 28-48 in Big 12 Conference play, which is 9th out of 10 teams, ahead of only Iowa State (25-51). The Mountaineers are 0-5 this season in conference play and have lost five consecutive games. West Virginia is currently 10-7 overall and although they can still be found on NCAA Tournament projections, their upcoming schedule suggests that it's going to be difficult to find another win for a really long time. West Virginia plays #17 TCU on Wednesday night, then #10 Texas, at Texas Tech, against #21 Auburn and then on the road at #17 TCU again. The Mountaineers could potentially win one or two of those games, but the team needs at least nine more wins this season to get to nineteen wins and only have fourteen games remaining. While Bob Huggins has promised that the Mountaineers are going to be better and that they are going to turn this season around, winning 9 out of 14 games to end the season seems like an impossibility at this point. Following this season, the Mountaineers lose starters Jimmy Bell, Jr., Emmitt Matthews, Jr., Kedrian Johnson and Erik Stevenson, as well as talented point guard Joe Toussaint off the bench, and West Virginia simply does not have much to get excited about left on the 2023-2024 roster. In addition, West Virginia currently has no recruits committed to play for the team and so Huggins - if he continues to coach the team next season - will once again have to rely on the transfer portal. Huggins and staff were successful in the portal this last year, but most of the players available will be one-and-done players and the whole cycle will start all over again next year. With that all said, it's hard to see any reason to be hopeful or positive about the football or basketball programs for the foreseeable future. It's truly the Dark Days of West Virginia Sports and although fans of the Mountaineers are some of the most loyal, passionate in the entire country, the product on the field and court has given West Virginia fans nothing to cheer about.

Neal Brown on the Verge of Making Another Terrible Decision

Cover Photo: Ben Queen/USA Today Morgantown, West Virginia - Following the 2021-2022 season, Neal Brown decided that it was finally time to hire a legitimate offensive coordinator to call plays for the Mountaineers by hiring Graham Harrell, who was the offensive coordinator at USC prior to coming to Morgantown. "Since the end of the season, I have spent time reflecting on the program, and take responsibility, knowing we have to be better offensively,” Brown said after West Virginia finished 6-7. “I’ve been serving in a dual role as the offensive coordinator and head coach, and we need to bring in another voice for the offense." The Mountaineers finished 5-7 last season, Harrell stayed only one season before leaving for the same job at Purdue, and now West Virginia has an opening at offensive coordinator once again. Ultimately, the only person Neal Brown really trusts is...well, Neal Brown.   Brown has had success calling plays in the past during his time as an offensive coordinator at Texas Tech, Kentucky and Troy, but his offense has been far too vanilla and predictable at West Virginia. Brown has the opportunity to bring in a young, talented offensive coordinator now to run the offense, but the reality is that Brown is too stubborn, too obstinate to make a decision that will benefit the program. He's far more concerned about benefitting himself to see what everyone else following the Mountaineers clearly sees; he's in over his head as a head coach and certainly doesn't need the added responsibility of calling plays as well. On top of all that, he's also just not very good at calling plays. Brown is neither creative nor innovative enough to have anything but a very average, vanilla, ordinary offense that will never be successful in the Big 12 Conference. His poor on-the-field decision-making and lack of guts on big calls makes him completely out-matched in every way against the far more talented coaches in the conference. While it's unlikely that any respectable offensive coordinator would choose to work for Neal Brown right now considering Brown is almost certainly facing termination after next season, anyone with any play-calling experience would be better than Neal Brown with one of his lackeys like Sean Reagan or Matt Moore as his co-offensive coordinator happening. Unfortunately, it appears that this is what is going to happen. Brown will likely promote Chad Scott (current running backs coach), Sean Reagan (tight ends) or Matt Moore (offensive line) to "offensive coordinator" while he ultimately calls the plays behind the scenes. Neal Brown's ego and stubborn nature continues to get in the way of progress at West Virginia.

Outlet Awards Pat McAfee Prestigious Honor

(Photo by The Pat McAfee Show) Former WVU kicker/punter Pat McAfee is making a name for himself. The 35-year old is quickly becoming one of the most recognizable names in all of sports media. He’s funny, he’s energetic, and he’s not afraid to do anything for a laugh. With his hard work and dedication to his craft has earned him a plethora of praise across the country. McAfee, who is now a part of ESPN’s College Gameday, has been named The Athletic’s Sports Media Person of the Year. For all the negativity and bickering around media in general, McAfee certainly is a breath of fresh air to the game that often tries to outdo each other.

Former Players Blast Neal Brown

Morgantown, West Virginia - The West Virginia Mountaineers continue to lose players to the transfer portal - today, Jasir Cox and star wide receiver Kaden Prather - and former players are now speaking out against head coach Neal Brown. Former West Virginia wide receiver T.J. Simmons, who played for the Mountaineers from 2018-2020, had 86 receptions, 1,197 yards and 9 touchdowns during his collegiate career. Following the departure of Prather from the team, Simmons had the following to say: "WVU really sacrificing the whole team for one man." His former teammate, Jeffery Pooler, added, "Thought it was obvious when we did this 2 seasons ago." Both played for Neal Brown and although they didn't name him personally, it is quite clear who they are referring to. Remember, one of the reasons that West Virginia remained committed to Brown in 2023 was to "keep the team together." However, that certainly does not look like it's happening with several players transferring.

Star Wide Receiver Enters the Transfer Portal

Morgantown, West Virginia - Moments ago, star wide receiver for the West Virginia Mountaineers Kaden Prather announced that he’s leaving the team and entering the transfer portal. Prather, a talented sophomore receiver who had 52 receptions, 501 yards and 3 touchdowns this past season, said the following on social media: "I would like to thank the great state of West Virginia and all Mountaineer fans for their hospitality over the years. You are the most loyal fans a player could ever hope for and I have enjoyed playing for you. With that being said, I will be doing what's best for me and entering the transfer portal. Please respect my decision." Huge loss for the Mountaineers!

Redshirt Senior Enters the Transfer Portal

Morgantown, West Virginia - Taijh Alston, a redshirt senior from Lumberton, North Carolina, has decided to leave the West Virginia football program and enter the transfer portal. Alston, a defensive lineman, had 18 tackles, 3 tackles for loss and 2 sacks this past season for the Mountaineers. During his long career in Morgantown, he has played in 28 games, has 56 career tackles, 15 tackles for loss and 8 sacks. Alston will have one year of eligibility remaining. Alston had the following to say in his farewell message to West Virginia: "Mountaineer Nation, thank you for being the most passionate fans in college football. Y'all showed love to me and provided and advantage every time I stepped on the field. Thank you Mike Joseph and Vince Blankenship for helping me come back from my injury to play the game I love. Thank you to all my brothers at WVU for pushing me every single day. With that being said, I have entered my name in the transfer portal for my last year of eligibility."

Colorado Could Soon Join Big 12

Morgantown, West Virginia - Deion Sanders was recently hired as the next head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes and one sportscaster believes that this could lead to the school moving conferences. Tim Brando, who has had a long, distinguished career at CBS Sports, ESPN and SiriusXM, recently said that he believes that Colorado could soon move to the Big 12 after Deion Sanders was hired. According to Brando, "Primetime" has been breaking barriers his whole career and the next one will be joining the Big 12. "He's still breaking barriers. Watch them move to the Big 12 Conference next!" Colorado was a part of the Big 12 for many years before moving to the PAC-12 and has been rumored for many months to be interested in re-joining the Big 12. Brett Yormark, the Big 12's new commissioner, has said numerous times that he wants the conference to be "younger and more hip", and adding Colorado led by Deion Sanders would do just that.

JT Daniels’ Outrageous Demands in the Transfer Portal

Morgantown, West Virginia - Last offseason, JT Daniels was one of the hottest players available in the transfer portal. A former five star quarterback, Daniels drew attention from several programs looking for an experienced, proven leader that could push their team over the hump. Ultimately, it came down to Missouri, Oregon State and West Virginia for his services. According to donors at Oregon State, Daniels had several major demands from their program if he was going to consider going there. Daniels reportedly asked for a four bedroom rental home, a personal chef and a six-figure endorsement deal. Daniels ended up choosing West Virginia University, where he was the starting quarterback for most of the season before being replaced by backup Garrett Greene. Daniels, who today announced his intention to enter the transfer portal again, will now attempt to play for his 4th team during his college career after playing at USC, Georgia and West Virginia. During his year with the Mountaineers, was 200 of 327 for 2,107 yards, 13 touchdowns and 9 interceptions in ten starts. Although terms of his NIL deal with Country Roads Trust was never revealed, he was rumored to have earned close to $500,000 or more for his year in Morgantown.

Top Five Realistic Players West Virginia Could Land in the Transfer Portal

Morgantown, West Virginia - The transfer portal officially opens tomorrow. Instead of being able to leave a school at any time, players now have to enter the portal within set dates. The first window opens tomorrow, December 5th, and closes 45 days later on January 18, 2023. West Virginia has several key holes to fill and Neal Brown and his coaching staff will be responsible for filling those needs prior to the start of next season. Here are the players that the Mountaineers are most likely to target in the coming weeks: Jonquis "JQ" Hardaway, CB, Cincinnati - Former 4 star quarterback out of Alabama, Hardaway recently entered the transfer portal after Luke Fickell left the program for Wisconsin. West Virginia offered Hardaway out of high school and is very interested in getting him on this second go around. Gilbert Frierson, CB, Miami - A graduate transfer, Frierson started all 11 games and finished with 53 tackles, including nine tackles for loss, two sacks, four pass breakups and a fumble recovery in 2020. Last season he started three of his 12 games and finished with 41 tackles, 3 1/2 tackles for loss and a sack. Nick Oliveira, OL, Cincinnati - Another former Cincinnati commit, Oliveira, a 6'5 280 pound offensive tackle was recently offered by the Mountaineers. Oliveira is a New Jersey native so West Virginia will have to battle Rutgers for his services. Deandrae McCray, Wide Receiver/Running Back, Austin Peay - McCray, a talented athlete out of Tallahassee, Florida, had 75 receptions for over 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns this last season. West Virginia recently offered. DJ Oliver, Running Back, USF - 6'0, 240 pound running back from Port Saint Joe, Florida, Oliver was recently offered by the Mountaineers after USF's former head coach Jeff Scott was fired.

Neal Brown’s New Contract

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports Morgantown, West Virginia - West Virginia's new director of athletics Wren Baker has now landed in Morgantown and will officially start his duties on December 19th, but in addition to getting acclimated with the area, Baker has big, major decisions to make over the next several weeks. The hard work starts now for Wren Baker. Baker must decide the next steps with head coach Neal Brown. Brown, who is currently under contract until 2026 and is owed approximately $16 million by the university on that deal, will be back in 2023, but his actual future with the team is very much up in the air. Bringing Brown back next season buys Baker time, but it certainly doesn't mean that Brown is safe. In fact, Wren Baker's top priority over the next couple of weeks is likely to find a way to negotiate Brown's contract to make it more favorable for West Virginia University. Neal Brown did not want to be fired after a 5-7 season. Being fired after four seasons of mediocrity would nearly be a death sentence for his future as a Power 5 head coach and he firmly believes that he can turn things around next season for the Mountaineers. Because of this, West Virginia University has the leverage and power now. Unlike two years ago, when Brown's name reportedly came up for other jobs such as Auburn and South Carolina, no one is going to come searching for him after a 21-25 start to his time at West Virginia, regardless of how respected he is in coaching circles. Brown has to succeed at West Virginia now or his time at this level is likely over for the foreseeable future. Baker should - and almost certainly will - have the following open, honest discussion with Neal Brown. "Neal, we will support you and do everything we can to help make you successful next season, but you have to work with us on this contract. You have had four seasons here and if you don't get it done in Year Five, we will have to let you go. You will be evaluated on a week to week basis and there's a very good chance that you won't meet our expectations. If you don't, we do not want to owe you $16 million in unearned salary. We are giving you this year to prove yourself and earn your future with the university. Adjusted Contract Terms That Makes Sense For Everyone Involved 1 year deal that pays Neal Brown $5 million a year with a $5 million contract buyout. Brown would get a slight bump in his yearly salary and if he's successful next season, a new contract will be negotiated. If he's not successful and does not meet the expectations of Baker, he will be fired and the university will owe him a much more reasonable $5 million. Why would Neal Brown accept these terms? He's betting on himself. He understands that he's failed over four seasons and doesn't deserve his current contract. In addition, he is grateful to the university for another chance to prove himself at the Power 5 level. In addition, if he doesn't accept these terms, West Virginia could always fire him and destroy his future. West Virginia doesn't want to pay the enormous buyout and Neal Brown doesn't want to be fired. No one wants it to come to this and that's why Brown will be amenable to accepting an adjusted deal. Neal Brown Might Have to Make Changes to His Coaching Staff Brown hired a bunch of his buddies to be on his staff and has been reluctant to make changes or fire anyone during his career, despite them under-performing with the Mountaineers. After a brief evaluation of the program, Baker will want to surround Brown with new energy and proven assistant coaches who have been successful at the Power 5 level. This means that Brown will have to fire a few of the assistants on his current staff. Offensive line/associate head coach Matt Moore, secondary coach ShaDon Brown, inside linebackers coach Jeff Koonz, tight ends coach Sean Reagan and even defensive coordinator Jordan Lesley will at the very least have their performances evaluated.

Shocking Amount of Time Since West Virginia Football Was Last Ranked

Cover Photo by Keith Srakocic Morgantown, West Virginia - At one point in time, the West Virginia Mountaineers were a perennial Top 25 team. If the Mountaineers weren't in the Top 25, they were on the cusp of being ranked. However, it has been a very, very long time since West Virginia has been ranked. How long? Try 1,455 days since West Virginia was in the Top 25. That's right, the last time the Mountaineers were in the Top 25 was December 9, 2018. Dana Holgorsen was the head coach. Tony Gibson was the defensive coordinator. Jake Spavital was the offensive coordinator. And the West Virginia Mountaineers were relevant.  Since then, West Virginia hasn't even sniffed the Top 25. The Mountaineers, under Neal Brown, are 21-25 overall and 14-21 in the Big 12 Conference. In addition, West Virginia has zero program-defining wins and has shown little to no progress on the field.

Pat McAfee Says Neal Brown is Going to Be Climbing Again Next Season

Morgantown, West Virginia - West Virginia announced the hiring of new athletic director Wren Baker and also revealed that head coach Neal Brown will be back to lead the Mountaineers in 2023. Today, Pat McAfee, the former West Virginia punter/kicker turned media personality, said today on his podcast that West Virginia has a real chance to turn it all around tomorrow. "Neal has a young batch that might get really good next season," McAfee said. "Honestly. Wide receivers, very good. Running back, very good. Quarterback, very good. Offensive line? We'll have to figure that out moving forward, but they'll have another year under them. Neal Brown is going to be climbing again next season. If not, he's going to be gone, and then we'll have a full coaching search with a new Athletic Director." McAfee also revealed that West Virginia's new athletic director, Wren Baker, already reached out to him on social media. "The brand new AD sent me a DM on Twitter. I haven't opened it yet. I don't want to leave him on read. I'm not yet ready to answer it."

West Virginia University Lied To You

Photo by Ben Queen/USA Today  Morgantown, West Virginia - When West Virginia University forced Shane Lyons to retire, university president Gordon Gee said that a new athletic director would be hired soon and it would be the responsibility of the AD to evaluate whether Neal Brown would return in 2023 or not. "We are supporting Coach Neal Brown and our team as we complete our season over the next few weeks, " Gee said. "We are aware there are some deficiencies, but we have not given up on the coach and the team, and they have not given up on each other. The evaluation of the football program will be the first task of our new athletic director and no changes will be made until that review has been completed." However, on the very same day that Wren Baker was hired as the new director of athletics at West Virginia, the university released a statement, saying that Neal Brown would return. To be clear, Baker doesn't even start work in Morgantown until December 19th and likely knows absolutely nothing (or very minimal) about West Virginia athletics or what has happened with the Mountaineers football program over the past four seasons. Even if he was briefed about the situation, how could he possibly make an informed decision when he hasn't even officially started working for the university! It's much more likely that Gordon Gee interviewed several qualified candidates for the AD position and one of the questions that came up was, "What will you do with our head football coach?"   Most proven, qualified athletic directors would obviously decide to fire Neal Brown and his entire coaching staff immediately. He's failed miserably over four seasons and there has been zero progress on the field. However, an AD refusing to allow Brown to remain with the team into 2023 likely eliminated several outstanding candidates. Gee wanted Brown back. It could be because of the money. It could be because he likes him and thinks he's a good man. It could be that he truly thinks that Neal Brown will get the football program back on track. But ultimately, Gee convinced Wren Baker (and half of the population of West Virginia) that somehow, despite all evidence supporting otherwise, that bringing Neal Brown back for one more year was the right move.  

What’s Next Now That Neal Brown is Back in 2023

Morgantown, West Virginia - With the hiring of Wren Baker as the new director of athletics and the announcement that Neal Brown will return in 2023. Brown, who is 22-25, is undoubtedly in the crosshairs and his evaluation will continue throughout next season.     Neal Brown Will Have to Show Real Improvement This is Neal Brown's final chance. He's had four seasons of mediocrity and disappointment, and despite what former AD Shane Lyons said recently, he's been in Morgantown four full years. Every coach in the nation has had to face the very same challenges that he has and there will be no more excuses made for him moving forward. With that said, anything less than a winning record and a bowl game would be considered failure. In fact, Baker may have even more lofty expectations for Brown. He may look at Brown's performance over the past four years and demand 7 wins or 8 wins or even 9 wins in order for him to keep his job. Brown, for the first time since arriving in Morgantown, will have real expectations. He no longer has his buddy Shane to fall back on and he doesn't have COVID or NIL or any other excuses that he can make for his poor performance. Assistant Coaches Will Be Fired Brown hiring his friends instead of real, proven assistant coaches was one of the major downfalls of his time at West Virginia. Despite an obvious need to replace assistants over the past four years, Brown has been unwilling or unable to fire any of his friends. Several assistants, namely Matt Moore (offensive line), Sean Reagan (tight ends), ShaDon Brown (defensive backs), Dontae Wright (safeties), Jeff Koonz (linebackers) are all friends of Brown who have no business coaching at this level of football. Tony Washington, Jordan Lesley, Graham Harrell, Chad Scott and Andrew Jackson should all be evaluated by Mr. Baker based on their overall performance. Lesley has had strong defensive units during his time at West Virginia, but this past season's performance was his worst yet. Harrell has likely not been given enough time to make a real determination about his future after only one season with the Mountaineers. And Washington, Scott and Jackson have been very solid assistants by all accounts. 2023 Brown will now be the leader of the program and with new, proven assistants in place, he will trust them rather than micromanaging everything. It was clear that Graham Harrell was not calling plays in 2022. That will no longer happen. Brown will be held accountable for everything that happens on the field and he will have to start holding his assistants accountable as well. West Virginia's roster is even more challenging next season than it was this year. It will be extremely difficult for Brown to meet the high expectations of his new boss and ultimately, Baker will evaluate Brown not just on next season but also on his previous four seasons. Although many are disappointed that Brown is returning in 2023, his future in Morgantown looks very, very bleak.

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