(Photo by WVU Athletics)
Nobody expected to be here when Neal Brown was hired in 2019. The former Troy head coach was garnered as the best coaching hire of the cycle, and rightfully so. He had a successful stint with the Troy Trojans, winning 31 games in his final three seasons.
Sadly, there is just a difference between expectations and reality. The expectation was that Brown would succeed, but the reality is he just isn’t cut out for the Power Five as a head coach.
It’s a matter of when, not if Neal Brown will be fired. Shane Lyons will be tasked with the second major coaching hire of his career with the Mountaineers. If he wants to remain in Morgantown, he must get it right this time.
I have composed a list of solid replacements that I would hire if I were Shane Lyons. He needs to make this one a home-run and land someone who has had success in the Power Five.
Here are the candidates that Shane Lyons SHOULD be calling once he pulls the plug on Neal Brown:
- Matt Rhule (Former Panthers & Baylor HC)
West Virginia knows Rhule well. He has coached against the Mountaineers three times, going 1-2 in that span. Rhule has shown that he can build a program quickly, and that is something the Mountaineers just need right now. One attraction Rhule may have to this job is his family’s connection to the Mountain State through his wife.
- Dan Mullen (Former Miss. State & Florida HC)
This one is a long-shot, but it could happen. Mullen is currently unemployed after being relieved of his duties in Florida. He has proven that he can win in the SEC, so the revamped Big 12 wouldn’t intimidate him. This would just depend on if Mullen saw WVU as a worthy destination for his services.
- Lance Leipold (Kansas HC)
Moves within the conference aren’t very common in the coaching carousel, but they are possible. Leipold has shown that he can turn a dormant program around quickly. If he can have the Jayhawks going for bowl eligibility in two short seasons, imagine what he could do at WVU. It’s worth a call. What does Lyons have to lose?
- Rich Rodriguez (Jacksonville State HC)
Love him or hate him, Rich Rodriguez is still a good coach. If the boosters can forgive him for his past sins, he isn’t a hire I would be opposed to. Though he does carry baggage with him now, the former Mountaineer head coach could easily have WVU competing in the new Big 12.
- Tom Herman (Chicago Bears Offensive Analyst)
The former Texas Longhorns head coach isn’t necessarily loved in West Virginia, but he is a coach with a background of success. He has a 54-22 record – that includes a 5-0 record in bowl games. I don’t see this one happening, but it wouldn’t hurt to reach out to see if there is any interest.
- Paul Chryst (Former Wisconsin HC)
Chryst was recently let go by the Badgers. Having accumulated a 67-26 record at Wisconsin, it doesn’t make sense as to why he was let go. However, we can certainly expect teams to reach out to him. He would bring a new style of ball to Morgantown. This might be exactly what the Mountaineers need right now. Chryst was also a GA at WVU in 1989 and 1990.
- Tony Gibson (NC State Defensive Coordinator)
This would be my personal pick to replace Brown. Though he doesn’t come with head coaching experience, everyone in Morgantown loves Tony Gibson. He is also a West Virginian, which means he would be seen as a long-term answer. The Mountaineers would also be a tough and scrappy squad under Gibson, unlike they have been under Brown.
- Jimbo Fisher (Texas A&M HC)
The national championship winning coach isn’t having the best time with Texas A&M right now. Jimbo Fisher is a West Virginia native who could be looking for a fresh start soon. Why not make the call? This would be a HUGE hire that would immediately elevate WVU to relevancy.
This is going to be a crucial time in Shane Lyons’ career. He has already made one mistake, he can’t make another. It’s time for him to flex the skills he learned at Alabama. Get the big coach or step aside and let someone who can.