Morgantown, West Virginia – Shane Lyons is gone from Morgantown. He’s now 733 miles away in Tuscaloosa, Alabama in his cushy new (old?) job as the Executive Deputy Director of Athletics at the University of Alabama.
But the dark cloud that he created will linger over Morgantown, West Virginia for years to come.
Lyons’ decision to give Neal Brown a contract extension and raise after an 11-11 start to his career with the Mountaineers will go down as perhaps the worst decision in West Virginia University history. Actually, not perhaps, it will go down as the worst decision ever.
Lyons attempted to pass the blame following his dismissal, saying it “wasn’t just a Shane Lyons’ decision”, but ultimately this decision fell on Lyons and that’s why he is no longer employed by West Virginia University.
Lyons claimed that Brown’s name was mentioned as a possible head coach replacement at Auburn and South Carolina, but there is simply no way that prominent SEC programs would even give an 11-11 Neal Brown any real consideration. The notion that Neal Brown would be named the next head coach at Auburn or South Carolina is naive and borderline idiotic. Lyons taking the rumors of Brown being a serious candidate was his first mistake. The second mistake was acting in a way that took these rumors seriously by locking Neal Brown down with a massive new deal that Brown simply did not earn or deserve.
If Brown was successful, the deal could have made some sense, but the fact that Brown went on to finish 6-7 in 2021 and 5-7 in 2022 made it a disaster.
Not only did it make Neal Brown untouchable contractually, it also paved the way for more mediocrity for the Mountaineers in the future. Neal Brown has proven that he is in over his head and not a Power 5 level head coach. However, because of his contract, West Virginia University can’t easily fire him.
If Brown were to be fired today, the university would owe him approximately $16.5 million. West Virginia would also owe his entire coaching staff buyouts and this would raise the total to over $20 million. Brown would be owed 85% of his contract if he’s fired between 2024 and 2026, when his deal is finally up.
With that said, West Virginia is going to have to pay Neal Brown whether they like it or not.
Lyons’ insistence on Brown being the right man for the job, even after his dismissal, is startling. In his interview after being fired, Lyons said the following: “People don’t see behind the scenes which, as an Athletic Director, you do. Last week proved a point that he had not lost his team. You’re in the locker room. You’re around the student athletes. They played very, very hard at a tough place to play,” Lyons said. “Is it where we need to be? The answer is no. We were looking for seven or eight wins. Did they meet expectations? No. At the same time, a couple plays go our way and we’re sitting at seven wins and we’re not having this conversation. Look at the first couple of years and what Neal Brown took over and the players he had and throw COVID in there, I look at this as Year Two for Neal Brown.”
In Lyons’ own words, he gave Neal Brown a contract extension and a raise before he even really started, which makes his decision even more head-scratching and unbelievable. Although Shane Lyons is gone, the stain of Shane Lyons at West Virginia will live on for years and years to come.