Morgantown, West Virginia – Every close source to the West Virginia football program that I’ve spoken to has said the very same thing: “Neal Brown is done at West Virginia at the end of the season, if not before then.” Apparently, Shane Lyons has made his decision to move on, pay at least part of the contract buyout and look to the future of the program.
In our previous West Virginia Coaching Hot Board (2.0) https://voiceofmotown.com/west-virginia-coaching-hotboard-2-0/, Hugh Freeze was at the top of the list of candidates. However, that was before he signed a massive 8 year contract extension worth approximately $5 million a year at Liberty. Although Freeze has language written into his contract that would make going to a Power 5 Conference team possible, he is reportedly very happy where he’s at right now and would likely only leave if an SEC team came knocking.
What’s clear is that West Virginia wants a proven, successful head coach who can step in day one and bring back the winning culture in Morgantown. With that said, here’s a look at realistic options for the Mountaineers moving forward.
1A – Matt Rhule, former Head Coach for the Carolina Panthers and Baylor Bears
Why Matt Rhule? The former Big 12 Coach of the Year (2019), Rhule showed that he was very capable of turning around a college program when he took a really bad Baylor team and turned them into an 11-3 team in his last year as a college coach. Although Rhule struggled as a head coach in the NFL (11-27 with the Carolina Panthers), he is just the type of proven head coach that West Virginia is looking for.
Why Not Matt Rhule? He’ll have several big schools (Nebraska, Wisconsin, others) competing for his services and he will likely demand a very big contract because of that. In addition, if he’s successful at West Virginia, he would likely see it as a stepping stone school for larger, more attractive programs.
1B – Dan Mullen, former Head Coach at University of Florida
Why Dan Mullen? Mullen, 50, was hugely successful in the SEC at Mississippi State and Florida, where he compiled an overall 103-61 record. At Florida, the Gators went 10-3, 11-2 and 8-4 under Mullen. He’s from Pennsylvania and is young enough to bring energy and enthusiasm to Morgantown.
Why not Dan Mullen? No obvious reasons to not hire him.
1C – Tom Herman, former Head Coach at Texas
Why Tom Herman? Herman, 47, is not currently coaching anywhere and would certainly consider an incredible opportunity at West Virginia University. In his six seasons as a head coach, Herman was nothing short of spectacular. His first head coaching position was at Houston, where he finished 22-4 overall in two seasons. He was then hired at Texas in 2017 and went 7-6, 10-4, 8-5 and 7-3 in his four seasons with the Longhorns. Also, he is 5-0 in his career in bowl games.
Why not Tom Herman? Herman has been known to have an abrasive personality and has rubbed fans and boosters the wrong way in the past. Could use West Virginia as a stepping stone.
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 120-42 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 21-5 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.