Cover Photo by Ben Queen/USA Today
Morgantown, West Virginia – Yesterday was a really tough day to be a West Virginia fan. The Mountaineers’ defense barely had a pulse, the crowd was pathetic on Senior Day, one of the top defensive players on the team announced that he was entering the transfer portal an hour before the game, and West Virginia is out of bowl contention and suffered its first back-to-back losing seasons in over 40 years.
It was bad bad.
And then, rumors started to float online that CJ Donaldson, an outstanding freshman running back and perhaps one of the brightest spots on the West Virginia football roster, could soon be leaving the program. Donaldson deleted all mentions of West Virginia University and erased all photos of himself in a West Virginia uniform on both his Instagram and Twitter accounts. Then, when the rumors started swirling, he put the photos in West Virginia gear back up and added “WVU RB” by his name on Twitter but kept Instagram void of anything West Virginia-related.
It was definitely weird and ultimately I think he will end up transferring, but he may wait until the end of the season or until he finds a new destination. Donaldson is from Miami and has no real connection to West Virginia, particularly if/when Neal Brown and his coaching staff are fired, which is inevitable. So while Donaldson hasn’t transferred yet – just like Neal Brown hasn’t been fired yet – it’s pretty much inevitably going to happen at some point.
And Donaldson won’t be the only player to transfer, whether Neal Brown returns or not. In fact, Neal Brown returning would actually be worse for players entering the portal than if he were to leave. Current players and recruits have seen what the program has become over the past four years and it’s hard to imagine why anyone would want to play for a team that has failed miserably but also been one of the most boring brands of football in the nation.
To be clear, the football program is where it’s at because of Neal Brown. He had all of the support in the world from fans and the administration at West Virginia University and this is his product. You can blame COVID or NIL or any other ridiculous excuse that’s been made for him, but ultimately every other coach has dealt with the same circumstances and he’s failed.
Brown’s stubbornness and unwillingness to adapt has been his ultimate downfall. He’s made monumental mistakes off the field (handling of Vic Koenning/Kerry Martin situation, Jahmile Addae/Jordan Lesley situation, not hiring a proven offensive coordinator until Seaosn 4, etc.), but what has really destroyed Neal Brown has been what’s happened on the field and the decisions he’s made in big game situations. Brown was in over his head when he arrived in Morgantown in 2019 and he’s still in over his head today in 2022.
The Future of the Program
With Brown inevitably gone in a few weeks, the new director of athletics, who will likely be named in a week or two, will be responsible for one of the most important hires in the history of West Virginia University. The Mountaineers need a proven leader who can erase the incompetence of the past four seasons. There will be lots of names thrown around in the coming weeks, but there are only a few head coaches who are really qualified to fix the situation at West Virginia quickly.
With that said, anything is better than what we’ve had for the past four seasons. Soon, there will finally be hope and reason to believe with Shane Lyons, Neal Brown and the hopefully many of the good old boys in Morgantown gone forever.