When West Virginia announced a contract extension for third-year football coach Neal Brown last week, the reaction from fans was somewhat mixed.
Brown is well-liked among the WVU fan base, seen as a genuine, caring coach who has ingratiated himself both with the Morgantown community and state-wide. Given a relative lack of success on the field in his first two seasons, however, had some people questioning the timing of awarding the coach with a new contract.
WVU athletic director Shane Lyons addressed those concerns in an appearance on MetroNews Talkline on Friday.
“I am not going to hide from it, you look at Neal’s record and it is .500. However, you have to look at the whole picture. We missed two games this year in the non-conference schedule. Do you win those two games? You could have had eight wins in there,” Lyons said. “I am betting on the future and am betting on Neal Brown to keep him here in Morgantown.”
The Mountaineers are 11-11 in two seasons with Brown at the helm, including a 7-10 record in the Big 12. He led WVU to a 6-4 record in 2020, capping the season with a win in the Liberty Bowl over Army.
“I know sometimes in the world today, we want instantaneous success,” Lyons continued. “What I look at is that it is a process. Are we building on something and do I have the right coach? My gut is telling me we have the right coach. Would I like to have eight or nine wins this year, ten wins the following year and make it to the Big 12 Championship game and the College Football Playoff? That is what I am betting on.”
The new contract adds two years to Brown’s existing contract, ending in 2026, and gives him a raise of about $1 million per year, from $2.95 million to $3,975,000. The contract will top out at $4.4 million in 2026 with various performance incentives.
“I really believe our program’s on an upward trajectory,” Brown said. “I like this team that we have right now…This extension is as much about them [the coaching staff and players] as me, because our players have bought in. Our chemistry within our staff now is going to allow us to build what we want to do here, which is build a championship program that everyone can be proud of.”
Lyons compared Brown to Iowa State head coach Matt Campbell. In five seasons, Campbell has taken the Cyclones from a three-win team in 2016 to nine wins and a Big 12 Championship Game appearance in 2020.
“Looking at what Matt Campbell did at Iowa State, I see a lot of resemblance in our two programs,” Lyons said. “That’s where it is heading.”
Also included in Brown’s extension are changes to contract buyouts and performance incentives. WVU will pay Brown the full value of the contract if terminated prior to Dec. 31, 2024. Brown will receive 85% of the value of the contract if terminated after 2024. If Brown leaves WVU, he will be responsible for 25% of the remaining contract value. That drops to 15% after 2024.
Brown will receive a $100,000 incentive for an eight-win season and $25,000 for every additional win thereafter. A Big 12 Championship carries a $250,000 bonus, a bowl appearance $50,000 and a national championship $300,000.