Morgantown, West Virginia – Following West Virginia’s 24-19 surprising win at Oklahoma State yesterday, many fans appear ready to give Neal Brown another year as the head coach of the Mountaineers.
Fans cite his incoming recruiting class, the fact that West Virginia was “young” this season, that he’s dealt with COVID and NIL, that he has a large contract buyout, as reasons for bringing him back in 2023.
None of those reasons are reasonable, rational excuses to continue to pay a head coach with four years of failure under his belt $4 million a year, but it’s clear that many West Virginians are willing to accept mediocrity and move forward with giving this nice guy another chance.
With that said, the fans don’t make the decisions at West Virginia University. The new director of athletics will. University president Gordon Gee said the following just weeks ago: “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.”
The new director of athletics is expected to be hired within the next 24-72 hours, per sources, and he/she will immediately begin the review of the football program, which is his/her top priority. Unless the new Athletics Director is Keli Zinn, who was at WVU at the time of Neal Brown’s contract extension and was very much in favor of it, or Rob Alsop, the current interim AD, it’s logical to believe that the whoever is in charge will view Brown’s last four years and decide to fire him. Zinn and Alsop are considered long-shots at best, which would make the assumption that Brown will be fired soon after very reasonable.
That is unless Gee hires the next director of athletics with the caveat that keeping Brown is an absolute must. Gee could understandably influence the new AD to believe that the university is unable or unwilling to afford Brown’s massive contract buyout. Gee is very fond of Brown and it’s very possible that he attempts to make that a condition for the new athletics director.
Having said that, it’s hard to believe that any AD worth a damn would be willing to risk his/her reputation and future on Neal Brown, who just got last year’s AD of the Year, Shane Lyons, fired.
So there are some variables that could keep Brown at West Virginia in 2023, but logic and reason points at the new AD making a change. Bringing Brown back for another year would make the new AD lose legitimacy and respect among fans, particularly if/when the Mountaineers struggle again next season.
With everything considered, my best guess is that Brown will be fired in the next week or two.
The attention will then turn to finding a new head coach, and despite reports to the contrary, there are many highly-qualified, proven head coaches available who would jump at the opportunity at coming to lead the Mountaineers. The new AD has several critical decisions to make in the near future but finding the right head coach to replace Brown and moving on from this mess will certainly be the top priority.