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First-Year Big 12 Coaches Have Gone 18-26 This Season, 12-22 in Conference

Cody Nespor

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The transition from 2018 to 2019 saw a lot of coaching turnover in the Big 12.

Four of the 10 schools made external hired for head coach ahead of this season. Neal Brown at West Virginia, Chris Klieman at Kansas State, Matt Wells at Texas Tech and Les Miles at Kansas were all brought in this past offseason.

Through 11 games, those four teams have a combined 18-26 record, including 12-22 in Big 12 play. Klieman leads the way at Kansas State with a 7-4 record and four Big 12 wins. The other three will all not play in a bowl game in their first years.

All four new head coaches have faced one another this season, trading wins and losses. Brown and West Virginia collected wins over Kansas and Kansas State, Klieman and the Wildcats defeated Wells and Miles, the Red Raiders defeated the Mountaineers and Miles led the Jayhawks over Well and Texas Tech.

Taking over a program and winning right away is a difficult thing for an external hire to do in college football and all four of these coaches found themselves in different situations.

Neal Brown and West Virginia

Brown took over a West Virginia team that went 8-4 in 2018, but was losing nearly every starter on the offensive side of the ball. He brought in two transfer quarterbacks, Austin Kendall and Jarret Doege and needed to piece together a receiving corps out of players that had little to no experience.

West Virginia hired Brown away from the University of Troy where, in four years, Brown put together a 35-16 record and left having double-digit wins in each of the last three seasons.

The Mountaineers are 4-7 at this point in the season but secured a signature win when they upset a ranked Kansas State team on the road 24-20.

Les Miles and Kansas

Miles had been out of coaching since he was fired from LSU after a 2-2 start in 2016. In 14 years with the Tigers Miles amassed a 114-34 record and won the national championship in 2008. The Tigers also made the championship game in 2011, losing to Alabama. Miles’ inability to get past Alabama in the SEC West is what ultimately led to his firing.

The Jayhawks finished 2018 with a 3-9 record and Miles’ hiring was exciting for the program.

“I know there’s a lot of excitement about coach Miles being there,” Brown said ahead of facing the Jayhawks earlier this season. “I’ve always respected him from afar. Obviously he’s a national championship coach and did a tremendous job at LSU and Oklahoma State before that.”

Miles was at Oklahoma State for four seasons from 2001-04 and went 28-21.

The Jayhawks victory over Boston College in week two this season was the first time Kansas had beaten a power-five opponent on the road in over 10 years.

Matt Wells and Texas Tech

Wells spent six years building up the Utah State program before joining the Red Raiders. He finished his tenure with the Aggies with a 44-34 record, including two 10-wins seasons.

“Lot of respect for Matt Wells and that staff,” Brown said before the Texas Tech game. “They did a great job really developing that program at Utah State.”

Texas Tech went 5-7 in 2018 and is currently 4-7. Wells has been without his starting quarterback, Alan Bowman for much of the season, relying on Jett Duffey instead. The Red Raiders upset Oklahoma State 45-35 earlier in the year.

Chris Klieman and Kansas State

Unlike the rest of the coaches, Klieman was taking over a veteran team that had experience. The Wildcats finished 5-7 in 2018, but Klieman has the team at 7-4 this year.

“Sometimes veteran groups are had to take over because they have a process for how they’re doing things, they have expectations,” Brown said before playing the Wildcats. “I think they had a culture in there of discipline and accountability and obviously that transition has gone smooth.”

Klieman spent the last five seasons at North Dakota State at the FCS level. In four of those years, the Bison won the national championship, including 2018 when the team finished 15-0.

Kansas State is the only team this season who has been able to beat Oklahoma, defeating the Sooners 48-41.

This will be the final week of the regular season for each of these coaches as they will turn their attentions towards filling out their first recruiting classes.

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Cody is currently a second-year graduate student at West Virginia University studying journalism. His graduate research focuses on the effects newspaper closures have on local communities. He graduated from Slippery Rock University in 2018 with a degree in digital media production. He was born and raised in Mercer, Pennsylvania.

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