MORGANTOWN, W.Va – The hiring of a new athletic director was not the only big decision West Virginia fans were waiting for at the end of this past football season, and arguably it wasn’t even the decision they were most curious about. WVU’s new athletic director Wren Baker and university president Gordon Gee were asked about what led them to decide to keep head coach Neal Brown at Baker’s introductory press conference on Monday morning.
“I’m excited to lock arms with him and get to work with him,” Baker said when asked about his thoughts on embarking on the next year with Brown back as head coach of WVU’s most prominent athletic program. It was also recognized that Baker may not be the best man to speak on what led to retaining Neal Brown, prompting Gee to step in and eagerly answer as well.
Gee recognized the struggles of the football team throughout the 2022 season and also made it clear that he spent time asking the advice of many of the people he knows throughout the college sports industry.
“We’ve had a challenging football year. What I realized is we put our coach in a challenging position with the hardest schedule in the country,” Gee brought up as why he does not feel it’s fair to simply view 5-7 as a failure purely based on the losing record.
“Few people have connected with West Virginia more than Neal Brown,” Gee added. This likely referred to Brown being from Kentucky, a similar geographic area as West Virginia and attempting to ingratiate himself with the people and culture during his four-year tenure despite the struggles on the field.
Neither was able to dive into detail if the timing or recruiting angle often discussed played a role in Brown staying on as coach for at least another season. What was evident from Gee is that he coveted Baker, mostly due to his belief the former Vice President and Director of Athletics at North Texas possessed all of the attributes he was looking for. Gee mentioned he wanted a “a strong leader, someone who would think differently, who would embrace West Virginia and lead us to new heights” in its new AD.
That would extend to making tough decisions like if the program needs to move on from a head coach, something that will now need to wait until after this year-long evaluation period of Brown.