Morgantown, West Virginia – It’s a matter of when not if Neal Brown will be fired by West Virginia University. Nothing short of a miraculous turnaround will save his job and that’s extraordinarily unlikely with a brutal Big 12 Conference schedule looming.
A $16.9 million buyout of his contract following this season is large and will be difficult, but the university will have no choice but to attempt to negotiate it and find a way to cut ties with Brown.
With that said, here’s a look at realistic options for the Mountaineers moving forward.
1 – Hugh Freeze, Liberty
Why Hugh Freeze? In his 10 years as a head coach, Freeze, 52, has been successful everywhere he’s been. He is 82-40 overall and 6-2 in bowl games during his time at Arkansas State, Ole Miss and now at Liberty. Liberty is 7-1 this season and just upset BYU, 41-14. In addition, he has reportedly reached out to West Virginia University through back channels to express his interest in the position should it become available.
Why Not Hugh Freeze? One word: Scandals. While at Ole Miss, the NCAA charged him with numerous recruiting violations, including car loans and cash given to players. In addition, phone records indicated that Freeze had made numerous calls to a female escort service. Freeze denied the allegations, but he was forced to resign or be fired and so he resigned from the position.
2A – Curt Cignetti, James Madison Head Coach
Why Curt Cignetti? He has been ultra-successful as a head coach (38-7 at James Madison, 105-33 overall), was a former assistant under Nick Saban at Alabama and played quarterback at West Virginia University from 1979-1982.
Why not Curt Cignetti? He has never been a head coach at a Power 5 Conference school.
2B – Shawn Clark, Appalachian State Head Coach
Why Shawn Clark? Clark, 47, is a relatively young, up-and-coming head coach who has been successful at Appalachian State and has proven that he can upset the big boys. Oh, and he’s originally from Charleston, West Virginia.
Why Not Shawn Clark? He’s too much like Neal Brown. He’s had success, but it’s been in the Sun Belt Conference.
2C – Jamey Chadwell, Coastal Carolina
Why Jamey Chadwell? Chadwell, 45, was the 2020 AP College Football Coach of the Year. Over the past 3 seasons, Chadwell’s Coastal Carolina team has gone 24-3.
Why Not Jamey Chadwell? No Power 5 Conference experience.
Swing For the Fences
Jimbo Fisher, Texas A&M Head Coach
Why Jimbo Fisher? He won a national championship with Florida State, he’s 120-41 overall and 8-2 in bowl games during his career, and he loves his home state of West Virginia. His experience combined with success and love for the state makes him a home run hire if West Virginia could somehow pull it off.
Why Not Jimbo Fisher? He has struggled recently at Texas A&M and is considered highly overpaid for the results that he has produced there. He has an astronomical buyout and it’s very unlikely that A&M would be willing to pay it to fire him.
Deion Sanders, Jackson State Head Coach
Why Deion Sanders? Potential program-changer who would give the university immediate attention from around the country. Sanders is an incredible recruiter who would bring major talent to Morgantown. In his 3rd season at Jackson State, Sanders is 20-5 overall, and Power 5 Conference athletic directors who have spoken to him were very impressed with his knowledge and preparation.
Why not Deion Sanders? Sanders, 55, could turn the football program into a circus. In addition, while he wants to coach at a Power 5 Conference school, he would likely view West Virginia as a stepping stone for larger, more high-profile positions.
Tony Gibson, Defensive Coordinator, NC State
Why Tony Gibson? West Virginia native who has been an outstanding recruiter and assistant during his long coaching career. He understands the importance of West Virginia football in the state and this would be his dream job.
Why Not Tony Gibson? No collegiate head coaching experience.
Rich Rodriguez, Jacksonville State Head Coach
Why Rich Rodriguez? In his final three seasons in Morgantown, the Mountaineers were 32-5 and reached unprecedented heights. He’s 6-2 at Jacksonville State and at 59 years old, he has a lot of coaching time left in his career.
Why Not Rich Rodriguez? Far too divisive. While many would celebrate his return, a huge portion of West Virginia fans would be completely against it. He has a ton of baggage and hasn’t been particularly successful since leaving West Virginia
Jahmile Addae, Secondary Coach, Miami
Why Jahmile Addae? Young (38 years old), passionate coach with a ton of respect in the coaching field. He was rated as the #2 recruiter in the nation last year and has incredible rapport with his players. The Mountaineers had one of the best defenses in the country when he was a co-defensive coordinator at West Virginia and he has been successful everywhere he’s gone.
Why Not Jahmile Addae? No collegiate head coaching experience.