SOURCE: West Virginia Has a “Handshake Deal” With Its Next Head Coach

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia — With the West Virginia Mountaineers struggling through the 2024 season with a 9-20 overall record and a 4-12 record in the Big 12 (last in the conference), it’s unlikely that interim head coach Josh Eilert will return next season. West Virginia’s director of athletics, Wren Baker, is said to have already started to conduct his search to find the next head coach at WVU.

According to our source close to the situation, Mark Byington, the head coach of James Madison Dukes, is the heavy favorite at this time to lead West Virginia next season. In fact, we’re told Byington and West Virginia Unversity have a “handshake deal” and he is reportedly in the choice following the season. According to our source, “a sitting Division One head coach told a prominent Virginia AAU head coach that Byington had the handshake deal.”

Byington, 47, has a 209-132 (.613 winning percentage) during his 12 seasons as a head coach at the College of Charleston (2011-2012), Georgia Southern (2013-2020) and James Madison (2020-current). This season, the Dukes are 28-3 overall and 14-2 in the Sun Belt Conference, and had an impressive win on the road at then #4 ranked Michigan State on the first game of the season.

According to his bio on the official James Madison basketball homepage, “During the 2022-23 campaign, JMU’s first as a member of the Sun Belt Conference, saw the Dukes rack up 22 wins on the season, their most since the 1981-82 edition posted the program record of 24. JMU set season records for total points (2,658), total rebounds (1,257), total steals (298) and steals per game (9.03), while the Dukes’ scoring average of 80.5 points per game was the third-highest in their Division I history.”

Byington, a Salem, Virginia native, was named the CAA Coach of the Year in 2021 and is considered bright, young, talented head coach who will likely be at the top of several schools’ list to take over their programs, but Wren Baker has reportedly heavily pursued Byington throughout the season and got the “handshake deal.” In other words, although it’s not official, both sides have agreed that this is what they want and it is extremely likely to happen.

With that said, the deal has not been signed or finalized, and it could potentially fall apart. This is still a very fluid situation and either side could change their mind prior to the contract being signed, but right now, it appears that Mark Byington will almost certainly be the next head coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers.