On Thursday morning, a man donning a sharp navy suit, a new old gold tie and a shiny Flying WV lapel pin stood behind a microphone to address a fanbase as their new head coach for the first time. That man was Neal Brown, who was officially introduced as the 35th head football coach at West Virginia University.
“What an honor and what a privilege it is to stand here before you as the head football coach at West Virginia University,” Brown proclaimed to start his address.
Three words defined the press conference: culture, vision, passion.
“Culture, vision, passion, those are the three things that have always been very important to me and (my wife) Brooke,” said Brown. “Those are three criteria that have factored into each move we’ve made and opportunity we’ve evaluated over the years.”
The man with an Appalachian accent may have won points with the fanbase with a nod to the the program’s most influential coach.
“When I think about culture, vision, passion, I think about Coach (Don) Nehlen and the incredible legacy he left here.
Ultimately, Brown said those three keys were the reason why he took the WVU job. “West Virginia is culture, it is vision, it is passion… it fits my DNA,” he confirmed.
Joining Brown at the press conference was his wife, Brooke, his three children, his parents and his wife’s parents. All four parents are teachers, something he said guides how he wants his coaching staff and everyone involved with the program to think.
“Anyone who touches this program, our job is to develop student-athletes. We will provide out student-athletes with all the resources they need to be successful on and off the field,” the new coach promised.
He followed it up by re-affirming, “This is not coach-speak, this is a program mandate from day one.”
Brown closed with a message to the fanbase that will surely spark excitement: “I could not be more excited to be your head football coach. We’re going to work, we’re going to compete, we’re going to have fun, and at the end of the day, we’re going to make you proud.”
Brown did drop a major piece of news during his presser. Vic Koenning will follow Brown to WVU from Troy. Koenning served under Brown during all four years at Troy. In 2018, Koenning’s defense held opponents to an average of 22 points per game.
He stated that there will be more hires in the coming weeks, but that “it’s more important to get it right than to get it done quickly.”
WVU radio announcer Tony Caridi emceed the proceedings, WVU president Gordon Gee welcomed the crowd gathered on campus and watching online to the “celebration” of the state and the university, and WVU athletic director Shane Lyons detailed exactly why Brown was the choice to helm the 14th-winningest program in college football history.
Lyons stated he was looking for a guy with head-coaching experience and a track record of competitive and academic success. “Every box that I set was checked by coach Neal Brown,” said Lyons.
“It was evident that they wanted to be here at West Virginia. That they wanted to be the first family of football,” said the athletic director before officially introducing Brown. Lyons then presented him with a blue No. 1 football jersey.
Brown comes to WVU from Troy, which competes in the Sun Belt Conference. There, he and Koenning captured the 2017 conference championship, made three bowl games and compiled a 35–16 record. In 2017, Brown was named Sun Belt Coach of the Year.
Before taking the head job at Troy, Brown was the offensive coordinator/QB coach at Kentucky (2013-2014), Texas Tech (2010-2012) and Troy (2008-2009). The Danville, Kentucky, native is an alumnus of UMass. He played wide receiver there and at Kentucky.
Both Brown and Koenning have Big 12 experience, as Koenning played at Kansas State (1977-1981) and coached at his alma mater (2009).
Now, Brown will hit the recruiting trail to before National Signing Day on Wednesday, Feb. 6.