Comparing West Virginia’s Head Coaches Through Their First 40 Games

Morgantown, West Virginia – The West Virginia Mountaineers are off to a 2-3 overall start and a 0-2 start in the Big 12 Conference, and head coach Neal Brown is now feeling his seat heating up in a major way with a very challenging remaining schedule upcoming.

Through 40 games, Brown has certainly not lived up to expectations, which let us to take a look at how his predecessors did through their first 40 games in Morgantown.

Rich Rodriguez

After replacing legendary head coach Don Nehlen in 2001, Rodriguez led the Mountaineers to a disappointing 3-8 season in his first year with the team. However, 2002 was a very different story. The Mountaineers finished 9-4 and had back to back wins over Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh, was the runner up in the Big East Conference and earned a trip to the Continental Tire Bowl against Virginia. In 2003, West Virginia started the season 1-4 with a devastating 22-20 loss to #2 ranked Miami Hurricanes, but had a 6-1 record in conference play and tied for the Big East Championship with Miami while earning a trip to the Gator Bowl.

Record through 40 games: 22-18, Grade through 40 games: B+

Bill Stewart

Stewart’s career started off in spectacular fashion with a 48-28 upset win over the Oklahoma Sooners in the 2008 Sugar Bowl. In his first actual season as the head coach of the Mountaineers, Stewart led the team to a 9-4 finish and a 31-30 win over #25 ranked North Carolina in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.

In 2009, the Mountaineers finished 9-3 with a loss in the Gator Bowl to Florida State. In addition, Stewart signed one of the best recruiting classes ever at WVU with Geno Smith and Tavon Austin commiting to the team.

In 2010, Stewart led the Mountaineers to a second straight 9-3 season and a share of the Big East Championship. However, West Virginia lost in the bowl game – a 23-7 loss to North Carolina State in the Champs Sports Bowl – which ultimately signaled the end of Stewart’s tenure with the program.

Record through 40 games: 28-12, Grade through 40 games: A

Dana Holgorsen

Like Stewart, Holgorsen started off his career as the head coach of the Mountaineers with a bang. Holgorsen led West Virginia to a 10-3 record and a trip to the Orange Bowl, where the Mountaineers hammered Clemson, 70-33.

However, Holgorsen’s teams underperformed the next two seasons, finishing 7-6 and a bad loss in the Pinstripe Bowl in West Virginia’s first season in the Big 12 Conference and then, in 2013, finishing 4-8 overall and 2-7 in the Big 12, Holgorsen’s worse season as a head coach. Unlike Rodriguez, who showed tremendous growth after his first season, Holgorsen’s teams regressed.

Record through 40 games: 22-18, Grade through 40 games: C-

Neal Brown

After a 3-1 start to the season in his first year with the team, the Mountaineers dropped five consecutive games and ultimately finished 5-7. The following year, with hopes high, West Virginia put together an above average season, finishing with a 6-4 overall record and a 4-4 record in the Big 12 Conference. In addition, West Virginia beat a 9-2 Army team in the Liberty Bowl. In Brown’s third season, the team regressed, finishing 6-7 overall with losses at Maryland, a heart-breaker at Oklahoma and versus Minnesota in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. To start the 2022 season, West Virginia opened up with back to back losses against to bitter rival Pitt and Kansas at home, wins against Towson and a terrible Virginia Tech team, and then a loss at Texas. At the time of publishing, West Virginia is 2-3 overall with an 0-2 conference record.

Record through 40 games: 19-21, Grade through 40 games: D-