Updated Thoughts on Neal Brown From His Harshest Critic

MORGANTOWN, West Virginia — Neal Brown was overwhelmed and out of his league when he became the head coach at WVU five years ago. Not necessarily as a coach but just because I don’t think anyone who has never been to Morgantown can really understand the importance of Mountaineers football to the state and to the people of West Virginia.

Football is the lifeblood of the area and the head coach of the team instantly becomes among the most important people in the state, and I don’t think Neal Brown was ready for that. In fact, I know he wasn’t ready for it. This was obvious from his decision-making to his presence on the sidelines. He was learning on the job.

This is why I have always advocated for someone with ties to the state to lead the program. Tony Gibson comes to mind. Yes, he’s not been a head coach and he didn’t have success at a Group of 5 program like Neal Brown did at Troy, but the reality is that Gibson knows what it takes to win at West Virginia, and that is clearly very, very important.

Now, would Gibson have the Mountaineers in the same position or better than Brown does now? I don’t know, but I do believe that there may have been less of a learning curve than there was under Brown.

With that said, Brown now has the program heading in the right direction, it seems. Although it took 5 years – which is a lifetime in college cooaching – the Mountaineers are in position to compete for a Big 12 Championship this season, and although I have been Brown’s harshest critic, I think it’s important to give him a clean slate heading into the 2024-2025 season.

There’s a lot of reasons for optimism surrounding the football program and dwelling on the past isn’t really helpful, but did Neal Brown deserve the criticism over the last 5 years? Yes, absolutely. He’s being paid $4 million a year to be successful in perhaps the most important job in an entire state, and he has to be held accountable. Brown signed up for this job and with this kind of responsibility comes huge expectations and hopes, and at times it really didn’t seem like there was any hope of it turning around.

But Brown survived and it appears that he’s now figured it out. So even though I think the criticism was warranted, I believe that putting full support behind him now is just as important.

I’ve predicted that West Virginia will win the Big 12 Conference this season, and go 11-1 overall in the process. I, like many others in the state, am really hopeful and excited for the upcoming season, and I’m fully Neal Brown. He has grown into a confident, competent leader of the program and I trust that he capable of leading the Mountaineers to success this season and in the future.

Let’s Go Mountaineers!