Morgantown, West Virginia – At 41 years old, Neal Brown is essentially a baby in the football coaching ranks. He’s at the very infancy of his life as a Head Coach, the beginning of a long and illustrious career in college football.
Brown, now 9-9 overall in his 2nd season with the Mountaineers, is young and talented enough to have the most successful coaching career in West Virginia football history. West Virginia’s all-time leader in coaching wins is the great Don Nehlen. Nehlen, who coached the Mountaineers from 1980 to 2000, won 149 games. His overall record during his 21 years in Morgantown was 149-93 (.614 winning percentage).
Behind Nehlen on the wins list at West Virginia are Dana Holgorsen (61 wins), Rich Rodriguez (60 wins), Art Lewis (58 wins), Rat Rogers (44 wins) and Bobby Bowden (42 wins).
Nehlen averaged approximately 7 wins per season over his 21 year career with the Mountaineers. If Neal Brown coaches into his 60s, he certainly should be able to eclipse Nehlen’s 149 win total at West Virginia.
Brown, who is clearly building the football program for long-term success, has many similarities to Don Nehlen. Both are very much player-first coaches, who built the program on doing things the “right way”, who value ethics and Appalachian-ingrained principles over everything else.
With this said, Neal Brown is unlikely to ever be fired at West Virginia University. He is too smart, too good, to ever be removed as the Head Coach of the Mountaineers. He’ll never be involved in a scandal or face penalties for wrongdoing. With Neal Brown, we can always expect the Mountaineers to be competitive and occasionally win big, just like Don Nehlen did.
The only potential issue that could prevent Brown from breaking Nehlen’s wins record is the allure of going back home to Kentucky. Brown, who was born in Louisville, Kentucky, could certainly be lured into returning home after winning big with the Mountaineers.
Imagine this potential scenario: West Virginia has a tremendous season, wins 10, 11, 12 games, makes a run at a national championship. At the very same time, Louisville or Kentucky have a very tough season and fire their coach. Who would either of these schools immediately turn to? Neal Brown.
And with more money thrown his way and an opportunity to return to his real roots, how could Brown possibly turn that down? At that point, Brown will need to make the very difficult decision of whether to return home or stay in Morgantown, where he could be the winningest, most accomplished coach in West Virginia football history.