MORGANTOWN, West Virginia — Neal Brown will be the head coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers. Not that he’s necessarily earned it, but it would be very difficult to fire a head coach who greatly exceeded this year’s expectations. Remember, the Mountaineers were predicted to finish 14th out of 14 teams in the Big 12 Conference, and West Virginia is now 4-2 in the conference and will likely finish in the top half or middle of the conference this season.
With that said, West Virginia — who was hesitate to fire Brown regardless due to his enormous contract buyout — will now find it impossible to can him when his team finishes 7-5, 8-4 or even 9-3 this season.
Brown will back and West Virginia fans can expect more of the same. Nothing spectacular but rather more of what we’ve seen during the Brown tenure; the Mountaineers will beat teams they are supposed to most of the time and will struggle against really good, complete teams. With Garrett Greene back, with CJ Donaldson and Jahiem White returning, with most of the outstanding offensive line expected to be in place, the offense should be fine. Young receivers Traylon Ray and Rodney Gallagher will take on expanded roles and the West Virginia coaching staff will go out and find an experienced pass-catcher in the transfer portal. The defense has been better than expected and should be even better next season.
Neal Brown has no excuse to not be really successful next year. Remember, Wren Baker has said numerous times that he will consider Brown’s entire tenure and not make emotional decision when it comes to making huge decisions like coaching changes. Baker has shown to be a really level-headed and smart decision-maker, and I expect him to do the right thing for the university, but if Brown doesn’t win big next year, Baker should really take the program’s mediocre results during the first four seasons under Brown into consideration.
It’s everyone’s hope – mine, the general fanbase, Baker’s, etc. – that Neal Brown has finally figured it out and will lead the Mountaineers back to its former glory, but it’s important to consider that the Big 12 Conference had a tremendously down year this season and West Virginia didn’t have to play some of the top teams in the conference (Texas, Kansas, Kansas State, Iowa State). In addition, the Mountaineers had the luxury of playing all four of the newcomers in the conference (Houston, UCF, BYU and Cincinnati) and those programs have proven to not be quite ready to play at this level. One has to wonder what West Virginia’s record might have been had they had to play their typical conference schedule of the past and didn’t get to play four conference cupcakes.
West Virginia got a huge win last night. The offense appears to be headed in the right direction. Brown has had his team ready to play the last several weeks and there was real excitement last night at Mountaineer Field. I’m cautiously optimistic for the future of West Virginia football, but it’s hard to be completely positive after dealing with the nightmare of the last four seasons.