Morgantown, West Virginia – Following Dana Holgorsen’s shocking departure to Houston back in 2019, West Virginia University was left searching for a replacement at head coach. Director of Athletics Shane Lyons had several interested candidates but ultimately decided on young, upstart Neal Brown from Troy, who had put together a successful run in the Sun Belt Conference.
The following are coaches that West Virginia could have – and perhaps should have – considered hiring instead of Brown:
Elliott is the assistant head coach/offensive coordinator at Clemson and was briefly considered a candidate at West Virginia. Although he lacks head coach experience, he’s young, energetic, a bright offensive mind and an outstanding recruiter.
At the time, Leipold was coming off a 10-4 season and a MAC East championship at Buffalo. Since then, he’s gone on to become the head coach at Kansas.
Clark has a 43-24 record in his six seasons at UAB and was coming off an 11-3 record and a Conference USA title in 2019.
At 41 years old, Candle has been the head coach at Toledo for 12 years and has been successful there, winning a MAC Championship and MAC Coach of the Year in 2017.
Another coach lacking head coach experience, Gibson is a native West Virginian and longtime assistant at WVU. He understands what Mountaineer football is and is considered a tremendous recruiter, and would have likely built a fantastic program at West Virginia.
Although he left West Virginia under less than ideal circumstances and had major baggage associated with his firing at Arizona, Rodriguez was coming off one season as the offensive coordinator at Ole Miss and was ready to take over a program again. Lyons hiring him would have certainly been controversial, but can we honestly say that the program wouldn’t be in better shape than it is now if Lyons brought back Rodriguez?
The decision for Lyons came down to Neal Brown and Luke Fickell, who also interviewed and was very interested in the position. Fickell, the current head coach of the Cincinnati Bearcats, has been wildly successful during his time there and currently has the Bearcats ranked #5 in the country.
Fickell has completely transformed the culture of the Cincinnati football program and likely would have done the same at West Virginia. Although Lyons ultimately chose Brown over him, you have to wonder where the Mountaineers would be today under Fickell.