Why West Virginia Doesn’t Fire Head Coaches

Morgantown, West Virginia – The last time that West Virginia University officially fired a major sports head coach was when the late Frank Cignetti Sr. was relieved of his duties after a 17-27 record through four seasons from 1976-1979.

Don Nehlen replaced Cignetti in 1980 and there has not been another West Virginia football or basketball coach that has been fired since. That’s 41 years.

The football program has been led by Nehlen, Rich Rodriguez (2001-2007), Bill Stewart (2007-2010), Dana Holgorsen (2011-2018) and currently, Neal Brown (2019 – present).  Five head coaches in 41 years is a fairly rare, impressive feat by a college football program.  While Stewart would have inevitably been fired and replaced with Holgorsen, he officially resigned from the university.

The basketball program has had even less turnover with only three head coaches in the past 41 years. When Joedy Gardner was fired as the head coach of the WVU basketball program in 1978, Gale Catlett took over and was the head coach from 1979 through 2002.  Catlett was likely going to be fired, but instead announced his retirement. John Beilien coached the team from 2002 to 2007 when he left for Michigan. Bob Huggins has been the head coach of the Mountaineers from 2007 until the present.

While the loyalty to the head coaches of the program is certainly admirable, one has to wonder if it’s what’s best for the university.

Last year, there were several head coaches fired from various schools with far more impressive records and resumes than current West Virginia head coach Neal Brown.

Virginia Tech fired Justin Fuentes with a 43-31 record, Miami fired Manny Diaz when he was 21-15, Florida fired Dan Mullen when he was 34-15, USC fired Clay Helton when he was 46-24, LSU fired Ed Orgeron when he was 50-20, Virginia fired Bronco Mendenhall when he was 36-38, TCU fired Gary Patterson when he was 181-79 and today, Arizona State fired Herm Edwards with a 26-20 record.

The question begging to be asked is, “Do these football programs have higher expectations and standards than West Virginia?” And if they do in fact have higher standards, why?  

West Virginia is 15th all-time in the history of college football, has an incredible fan base, is the only show in town in the entire state, and yet, the Mountaineers seem to have less expectations than schools like Arizona State, TCU and Virginia Tech.

While Neal Brown has an astronomical contract buyout, mediocrity simply cannot be accepted. Brown has had plenty of time to prove himself, has shown that he is not the right person for the job and it’s time that West Virginia fires their first head coach in over 40 years.