Early Monday morning, West Virginia brass made a somewhat surprising decision to part ways withDirector of Athletics Shane Lyons.
It was somewhat surprising not because it happened, but because it happened after a successful weekend for the school’s revenue sports as the football team defeated Oklahoma for the first time since joining Big 12, the men’s basketball team blew out rival Pittsburgh on the road and the women’s soccer team beat Virginia Tech in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
That being said, the writing has been on the wall for Lyons for a few weeks now. The school’s marquee football program has gone 53-42 since his hiring, but most of those wins were by lame duck coach Dana Holgorsen. Lyons’s hire, Neal Brown, has gone 21-24 at West Virginia.
Even worse, he has gone 10-13 since Lyons questionably extended Brown after a 6-4 season Liberty Bowl win. That extension fully guarantees the remainder of Brown’s contract, which amounts to around $16 million.
It comes as no surprise to see that the lack of football success was listed as one of the reasons for his outing in the report by WV MetroNews’ Hoppy Kercheval.
All of this leads to the obvious question, what does this mean for Brown?
For fans hoping that Brown would be fired right after Lyons, that doesn’t appear to be the case. ESPN is reporting that the expectation is Brown will be evaluated at the end of the season. There isn’t a major difference in buyout as Brown will get paid for the remainder of this season regardless if he was allowed to coach or was fired today. Again, his contract is fully guaranteed.
Brown was Lyons’s guy though, and it is tough to imagine that the next Director of Athletics will feel obligated to keep a coach that’s best season was a pandemic shortened year and that only resulted in an insignificant bowl win. It was Lyons who hired him and Lyons who extended him, with administration’s approval of course.
But will the administration want an interim Director of Athletics to hire the next man to lead by far the most financially lucrative athletic program?
The Director of Athletics search is likely going to be a quick one. If the school is dead set on moving on from Brown, which wouldn’t be too surprising given his track record, they likely still want the next Director of Athletics to pick his coach. That’s probably one reason as to why Brown wasn’t fired alongside Lyons, despite football being an obvious reason for Lyons’s dismissal.
So how quick will the Director of Athletics hiring be? The college football season ends for West Virginia in two weeks, barring an extremely unlikely bowl berth. Bowl season is when schools in need of a new coach typically hire their next one. That process usually is completed by New Year’s, with many coaches accepting jobs before their prior team even plays a bowl game.
If West Virginia wanted their next Director of Athletics to have his pick of the litter in a available coaching candidates this off-season, then they need to hire the next guy this month.
The timeline of the Director of Athletics hire will likely determine when Brown will be replaced. If a new Director of Athletics isn’t in place by the off-season, then don’t be surprised if Brown is the coach in 2023.
Really though, it’s tough to imagine that Brown isn’t on his way out the door at West Virginia. I from an outsider’s perspective, it all seems to be a matter of when, not if at this point.
Whether that’s following this season or next, it’s tough to envision the next Director of Athletics keeping the status quo with a program that helped get the last guy fired.