Morgantown, West Virginia – Talks within the West Virginia Athletic Department have intensified as the top brass tries to clean up the mess after the Mountaineers’ first 0-2 start since 1979.
While much of the attention and blame from fans has been placed on head coach Neal Brown, big donors are far more focused on West Virginia’s Director of Athletics Shane Lyons.
Lyons, who has been at West Virginia since 2015, made a very curious decision when he gave a contract extension and raise to Neal Brown last year when Brown was 10-10 as the head coach of the Mountaineers.
This contract extension has caused all sorts of problems for West Virginia University, as Brown will be owed an enormous amount of money if he’s fired before his contract ends. If he’s fired today, the university will owe him north of $20 million. If he’s fired after this season, he will be owed $16.9 million.
Donors are not necessarily frustrated and angry with Neal Brown, who has admirably given his best effort, despite being in over his head as a head coach at this level. In other words, Lyons is responsible for the the whole debacle and should be held accountable for putting the football program in the situation that it’s in.
To be clear, two separate sources have said that the money to pay for Brown’s contract buyout has already been gathered. The main issue is coming up with more money to hire a proven head coach who will be able to lead West Virginia back to its former glory.
Neal Brown will almost certainly remain with the team until the end of the season, unless the team loses multiple more games in a row and the pressure becomes too great to ignore. The university ideally wants Brown to stay for the remainder of the season and hope for a miracle and for the team to finish with a winning record and a bowl game appearance.
If that doesn’t happen – and no one expects that to happen – Brown will be fired at the end of the season and the university will save $4 million in the process. Firing Brown right now doesn’t make any sense financially or otherwise at this point.
However, if West Virginia loses at Virginia Tech in Week 4 and then loses its first couple of Big 12 Conference games, Brown will likely be fired then. If he’s not, there’s a very good chance that Lyons could be fired first.
Lyons’ statement earlier today was clearly not a vote of confidence in Neal Brown. At no point did he say that he believes in the direction of the program. Shane Lyons knows at this point it’s either Neal Brown’s head or it’s his.