Morgantown, West Virginia – A month ago, Neal Brown likely felt quite comfortable at his work place, despite the noise and uproar from fans and from those outside the West Virginia athletic department.
He still had Gordon Gee and Shane Lyons. They hired him. They believed in him. They would give him every opportunity in the world to fix the problems with the football program. They trusted him and he trusted them. A large portion of the fanbase might have lost faith in his ability to perform his job effectively, but Gordon Gee and Shane Lyons would have his back and support him until the bitter end.
That is until Gordon Gee called Shane Lyons into his office and blind-sided him, forcing him to resign for reasons that weren’t entirely clear to Lyons. Gee’s dismissal of Lyons not only killed the pollyannish hopes that they – Gee, Lyons and Brown – once dreamed, it also destroyed any trust between them.
To be clear, Neal Brown did not believe that Shane Lyons should be fired. Following Lyons’ forced resignation, Brown had the following to say about his former boss: “Hurting for Shane and his family. Shane is a strong administrator but even a better guy. He’s a good man. I think that’s very important to note, and I think people forget that behind titles and decisions are real people with real families. He and his wife, Emily, and their two kids, they served this university, and they served it well. We’re thinking about him. And I’m very appreciative for the opportunity that he gave me to come here and we’re going to continue to fight and get better and win as many games as possible the right way, like he would want.”
With Lyons now gone, the relationship between Brown and Gee is almost certainly now fractured as well. How could Brown ever trust Gee after what Shane Lyons said on his radio appearance?
Lyons made it clear that he was shocked by being fired, that Gordon Gee had sent him texts about how he was happy with him and wanted him to be at West Virginia University only weeks before, and then he was suddenly axed. This after being named the athletic director of the year last year and after receiving outstanding performance reviews during his time in Morgantown.
If Brown stays, and that’s a huge if, he would essentially be living in his own private hell week to week, day to day, hour to hour. He now knows what Gordon Gee is capable of. If Gee could do what he did to Shane Lyons – someone he loved and adored for years -, what would stop him from doing the same to him?
This is why a personal and/or working relationship between Gordon Gee and Neal Brown will no longer work. What was once a relationship built on trust and openness will now be ruled by uneasiness and suspicion.