Morgantown, West Virginia – The entire world at West Virginia University has been turned upside down in the last few weeks and the situation is only going to get even more interesting in the coming days.
Shane Lyons was recently fired. No one ever really expected that to happen. He was very friendly with West Virginia president Gordon Gee and was named the national athletic director of the year last year. Lyons then went on the radio yesterday and absolutely blasted his former boss in an interview with Hoppy Kercheval, revealing that he was caught off guard and was shocked when he was informed that a decision had been made to fire him.
Absolute silence from West Virginia University.
No news on who will be the new athletic director while head football coach Neal Brown waits in limbo to see if he’ll return in 2023.
While other universities around the country have made moves to ensure that their football program will be successful for many years in the future – Auburn hiring Hugh Freeze, Wisconsin luring Luke Fickell from Cincinnati, just to name a few – Gordon Gee has slowly and methodically inched his way towards one of his most important decisions he’ll ever make.
From all reports, West Virginia has tried and struck out at hiring a big name athletic director like Rob Mullens, the current AD at Oregon. He’s a Morgantown native, graduated from West Virginia University, loves the area and has family in the state. Mullens is one of the most successful, innovative athletic directors in the country and would have been a grand slam hire for West Virginia, but unfortunately he’s likely going to stay at Oregon. West Virginia did pursue him as their top choice, but it now appears unlikely that they’ll be able to land a current Power 5 Conference athletic director.
West Virginia has been in touch with several up-and-coming Group of 5 athletic directors and are deciding who would be the best option to run the athletic department moving forward.
The name that has been bounced around is Adrian Dowell, the current athletic director at the University of Nebraska Omaha. He has an MBA and Master’s in Sports Administration from West Virginia University and was highly successful during his time at the Mountaineer Athletic Club, where he worked for 5 years.
Dowell is certainly not the only potential replacement for Lyons being explored. There are many outstanding athletic directors from around the country from the G5 who are very interested in the position, and Gee and the search firm he hired are certainly taking their time conducting interviews and doing their due diligence.
What to watch for
With that said, big moves are about to go down. The announcement of the new athletic director will tell us a lot about the future of West Virginia football and Neal Brown. Gee is clearly fond of Brown and may hire the new athletic director with the caveat that keeping Brown for now is necessary. Brown’s contract buyout is clearly a major concern for the university and they want more than anything for Neal Brown to work out as the head coach, despite his obvious failures.
However, Gee said recently that Neal Brown’s future would be decided by the new athletic director. If that’s true, it’s hard to believe that he/she would even consider bringing Brown back in 2023. Brown’s substandard performance over the past 4 years should lead any athletic director to immediately move on from him and start fresh with their own head coach.
If Gee hires a proven, successful athletic director, Neal Brown is as good as gone. If Gee hires an athletic director with little experience who he can shape and mold, he can probably convince that person to give Brown another year.
There are so many different possibilities and so many different ways this could all play out, but we won’t have to wait much longer. Decisions and announcements are coming very soon.