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Asti: Structure of Neal Brown’s New Deal Serves to Assist WVU Football Program



WVU Football HC Neal Brown

To no surprise, some WVU fans are upset the program decided to extend head coach Neal Brown. And while it’s certainly reasonable to want to see the Mountaineers continue climbing before fully buying into Brown, most of the reaction is losing sight of the details of Brown’s new contract.

It’s true Brown was awarded an extension to keep him leader of the West Virginia Mountaineers through the 2027 season, but did you know his new deal is actually more friendly to WVU as a program? A major obstacle in removing Brown prior to the 2023 season when he was entering the year with a losing record since arriving in Morgantown in 2019 was his buyout. This extension actually now benefits the program itself and provides Brown less security.

Brown’s new deal reduces his salary over the next three years by a total of $400,000, per MetroNews’ Hoppy Kercheval. To break this down further, Brown will make $4 million annually in each of the next two seasons before a jump to $4.3 million in 2026 and $4.4 for 2027, the extra year added. Prior to this extension, Brown was in line to make $4.1 million in 2024, $4.2 million in 2025, $4.4 million in 2026 and would have not had a contact at all in 2027.

In addition to a decrease in his salary, Brown’s buyout, the most important aspect of a contract to a program, has also been slashed from 100% to 75% if he is fired. This means WVU will now owe Brown less than it would have in his old deal if he is let go at any point.

So while your initial instinct might have been to freak out about West Virginia locking themselves into a coach who still has to prove he can maintain a standard, what Brown agreed to is wildly uncommon for a head coach coming off a winning season. According to sources, and honestly what makes sense looking at the structure of the deal and knowing Brown, this was done in an effort to assist West Virginia.

Brown is literally investing money that was owed to him back into the program as a way to help WVU compete in this modern college football climate. And even though the NIL money a program can benefit from does not come out of the athletic department’s or school’s bank account, having more money to play with will still alleviate operating costs and pay assistant coaches. And yes, he’ll get a small raise towards the end of this deal. But if he’s still around at that point, West Virginia would then be well off and winning.

Regardless of the reasoning and how much you believe Brown’s old buyout played a role, WVU director of athletic Wren Baker made the decision to keep Brown and was rewarded with a 9-4 season. Was 2023 perfect? Of course not. With that said, WVU was never going to fire a coach who won nine games, including a bowl game, no matter what. However, it’s fair to say one solid season is not enough to make people forget about the struggles of Brown’s first four seasons, especially in context to WVU’s history.

To put it bluntly, this deal offers West Virginia more of a cushion to possibly fire Brown if 2023 is followed by failing to reach bowl eligibility again or doesn’t show another step in the right direction. Obviously, WVU doesn’t want to have to make that decision. Baker’s own words show he believes Brown is the right man to preside over the Mountaineers into the future.

“I am pleased with the progress I’ve seen in our football program since arriving last year,” Baker said. “I believe this contract amendment allows us to continue to build on our momentum as we begin our first year in the new and expanded Big 12 Conference. I’m appreciative of the effort Coach Brown and his staff put into developing the young people in our program both on and off the field.”

West Virginia is also bringing back Garrett Greene, Jahiem White and several other key contributors, causing some to feel WVU can contend for a conference title in 2024. The departures of Oklahoma and Texas also open up a spot for WVU as the winningest program among the Big 12 schools remaining, as well those joining the conference.

Asti: WVU Avoids Doomsday Scenario, Accomplishes Top Priority of Offseason

None of this guarantees WVU will win the Big 12 or even repeat the type of season Brown just achieved, but if things do head south, a heavy buyout and finances won’t loom over any decision as much.

For a related story, click here to read about the 2023 season in its proper perspective (written prior to bowl game).

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