Some fire after all
by Jim Buzzerd
For several weeks there has been ongoing speculation about Neal Brown’s future as head football coach at West Virginia University. While there was widespread support to end Brown’s tenure at West Virginia as his team was 3-6 last week except for one gigantic sticking point. That would be the $16 million WVU would have to pay Brown not to coach the Mountaineers. As the buyout received more and more scrutiny, WVU athletic director Shane Lyons, who offered the contract to Brown when he was just 11-11 in two seasons, was feeling some pressure for his role in the debacle.
Brown put some good will in the bank as his Mountaineers beat Oklahoma 23-20 on Saturday. On the other hand, Lyons and West Virginia parted ways on Monday. Some news outlets reported he was fired, some said Lyons was forced out, another said he is resigning under pressure from the University. Lyons informed his staff of the decision this morning following a tense meeting Sunday with WVU President E. Gordon Gee.
Call it what you will, but Lyons is the first casualty of the Brown Contractgate. A new athletic director is expected to be on board within three to four weeks according to published reports. There are several names being tossed around by fans including former AD Oliver Luck. I, for one, and this is just a guess, but I would be surprised if Luck would have great interest in returning. A more accurate list of legitimate candidates will likely be available this time next week.
The next athletic director’s most pressing issue will apparently be evaluating the Brown situation, at least according to Gee.
“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.”
That doesn’t sound particularly promising for Brown. Saturday’s first win over the Sooners by the Mountaineers since joining the Big 12 helped his cause and winning the final two games of the season would give the new athletic director something to ponder.
Speaking of pondering. Who will Brown start at quarterback Saturday against Kansas State? Transfer JT Daniels has struggled in recent games and was benched after a slow start Saturday for Garrett Greene who came in and passed for one touchdown and ran 14 times for 122 yards and two more touchdowns. Saturday’s game is at 2 p.m. on ESPN+.
I’ll get into basketball more as the season progresses, I admit to being more than a little surprised of the 81-56 beatdown of Pitt Friday night at the Petersen Events Center. I don’t want to make any bold predictions early because the non-conference schedule is tougher than last season’s was, but so is this team. They are aggressive on defense and offense, plus they cut their turnovers from 18 in game one to 11 against Pitt.
West Virginia will be back in action Friday night against Penn at 7 p.m. in the Coliseum. Game can be viewed on ESPN+.