by Jim Buzzerd
It’s been an interesting few weeks for those who watch the comings and goings of West Virginia University athletics. Two weeks ago, WVU athletic director Shane Lyons was fired by WVU president E. Gordon Gee amid growing frustration surrounding the football program and specifically, the continued employment of head coach Neal Brown. At that time most assumed Brown would be the next one to be let go, but Brown has a contract that says WVU will have to pay him $16 million if they fire him.
Rumors have been present since the lose to Kansas in the second game of the season that big money boosters were putting together the money to finance the buyout. I don’t know if that was factual then, or now, but it is Monday evening following Saturday’s 24-19 win by the Mountaineers at Oklahoma State and Brown is apparently still employed at WVU. Since there is no news on an athletic director hire any decision to fire Brown would fall to Gee and I’ve been told Gee won’t do that. The odds of Brown coaching the Mountaineers in 2023 have increased significantly.
More fuel to this fire came Monday morning when Lyons appeared live on MetroNews Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval and expressed his displeasure with Gee. “It was a complete surprise,” Lyons said on MetroNews Talkline with Hoppy Kercheval. “Two weeks earlier, I have a text message [from Gee] saying, ‘I know there’s a lot of pressure on us and I wouldn’t want to be in a foxhole with anybody else rather than you.’”
Yeah, sounds like some disingenuous communication on the part of Gee. In any event I would encourage interested folks to go to the MetroNews website and watch/listen to the Lyons Interview.
Meanwhile Bob Huggins’ basketball team acquitted itself nicely last weekend in Portland, Oregon. The Mountaineers lost to Purdue 80-68 in the opener of the Phil Knight Legacy tournament on Thanksgiving night. The Mountaineers trailed throughout to the 25th ranked Boilermakers and looked to be in business when they cut the lead to 66-62 with 5:30 left in the game, but WVU could get no closer.
Disappointing loss, to be sure, but Purdue went on to win the tournament with an 84-66 win over Gonzaga in the semifinal and a 75-56 win over Duke in the championship game. Those three wins vaulted the Boilermakers all the way to fifth in this week’s Top 25.
The Mountaineers rebounded with an 89-71 win over Portland State and an impressive 84-55 win over Florida in the fifth place game. Mountaineer fans must be pleased with what they have seen thus far of this basketball team.
The Mountaineers will not return to action until Saturday when they get a stiff road test in Cincinnati where they will play Xavier at 6:30 p.m. on FS1.