Photo by Ben Queen/USA Today
Morgantown, West Virginia – When West Virginia University forced Shane Lyons to retire, university president Gordon Gee said that a new athletic director would be hired soon and it would be the responsibility of the AD to evaluate whether Neal Brown would return in 2023 or not.
“We are supporting Coach Neal Brown and our team as we complete our season over the next few weeks, ” Gee said. “We are aware there are some deficiencies, but we have not given up on the coach and the team, and they have not given up on each other. The evaluation of the football program will be the first task of our new athletic director and no changes will be made until that review has been completed.”
However, on the very same day that Wren Baker was hired as the new director of athletics at West Virginia, the university released a statement, saying that Neal Brown would return.
To be clear, Baker doesn’t even start work in Morgantown until December 19th and likely knows absolutely nothing (or very minimal) about West Virginia athletics or what has happened with the Mountaineers football program over the past four seasons. Even if he was briefed about the situation, how could he possibly make an informed decision when he hasn’t even officially started working for the university!
It’s much more likely that Gordon Gee interviewed several qualified candidates for the AD position and one of the questions that came up was, “What will you do with our head football coach?”
Most proven, qualified athletic directors would obviously decide to fire Neal Brown and his entire coaching staff immediately. He’s failed miserably over four seasons and there has been zero progress on the field.
However, an AD refusing to allow Brown to remain with the team into 2023 likely eliminated several outstanding candidates. Gee wanted Brown back. It could be because of the money. It could be because he likes him and thinks he’s a good man. It could be that he truly thinks that Neal Brown will get the football program back on track. But ultimately, Gee convinced Wren Baker (and half of the population of West Virginia) that somehow, despite all evidence supporting otherwise, that bringing Neal Brown back for one more year was the right move.