Morgantown, West Virginia – I want desperately to see Neal Brown become a successful head coach at West Virginia University.
However, at 17-18 overall and 11-15 in Big 12 Conference play since coming to Morgantown, Brown has severely underachieved. You can make all of the excuses in the world for his poor performance, but an under .500 record is unacceptable for the Mountaineers under any conditions.
Although Brown has made tremendous improvements – a fancy new offensive coordinator, a five star transfer quarterback, an offensive line that features five returning starters – this is without a doubt the toughest year he has ever faced as a college football head coach.
The Mountaineers will face five preseason Top 25 teams – Oklahoma (#9), Baylor (#10), Oklahoma State (#11), Pittsburgh (#16) and Texas (#18). In addition, West Virginia has a brutal out of conference rivalry night game on the road at Virginia Tech. Despite Virginia Tech likely having a down, rebuilding season, beating the Hokies in Lane Stadium at night and in a rivalry game is next to impossible. The crowd is so impressive and intimidating that even though West Virginia is the better team this year, it will be a difficult game to win.
Unless the Mountaineers pull off several upsets – something they have not done very often in the previous three seasons under Neal Brown – it looks like West Virginia could finish with a 3-9, 4-8 or 5-7 record. It’s very challenging to find more than five wins on the Mountaineers’ schedule this season and anything less than six wins would not be progress in the eyes of the fanbase or West Virginia’s director of athletics Shane Lyons.
Lyons doesn’t want to fire Neal Brown. In fact, that’s probably the last thing in the world that he wants to do. Neal Brown is Shane Lyons’ guy. Brown is who Lyons handpicked and he has put a tremendous amount of trust in Brown to make the Mountaineers a winner.
But Lyons will also face an angry mob if West Virginia has another losing season, and his job security will come into question if he continues to ride an under-performing Brown.
With that said, 6-6 is the bare minimum Brown needs to accomplish to keep his job. 7-5 is progress. 8-5 would be a miracle. Anything less than six wins and Neal Brown just can’t remain the head coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers.