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What I Think West Virginia Should Do Now

A loss to Kansas may have just signaled the end of the tenure of Brown but how to do we get through 2022?

NCAA Football: Kansas at West Virginia Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

Normally in this column, I’d break down a few different things I saw when I watched the game; things I saw either during the game or during a rewatch, but I don’t think you care and I don’t have the energy or desire to try and find silver linings after the West Virginia Mountaineers needed a last-second drive just to force overtime against the Kansas Jayhawks and then had a pick-six (again!) that sealed the fate of the good guys.

West Virginia sits at 0-2 for the first time since 1979 when the head coach was Frank Cignetti and unfortunately Cignetti’s name and Brown’s name have been brought up more and more over the past four years. In 1979, the Mountaineers would lose their first three games to Temple, Syracuse and #19 NC State. They would rebound with a 4-game winning streak when they beat Richmond, Kentucky, Boston College and Tulane. The Mountaineers would go on to lose three of their next four with a win against Virginia Tech the only win. The team would finish 5-6 that year and it was the end of Cignetti.

After three years and two games, West Virginia is 17-20 under head coach Neal Brown and currently staring at the schedule, its a tough slog to decide if we are able of winning at least six games to get to a bowl game.

I don’t think Brown will be fired this week. I’ve said all along that Shane Lyons has every reason to give Brown every reason to succeed, in part because Lyons gave Brown a contract extension two years ago and needs a justification for the buyout and contract. Currently, Neal Brown is contractually signed through 2026. The way his buyout is structured requires the Mountaineers to pay 100% of the remaining contract if Brown is let go before December 31, 2024, which is why I always thought Brown would be here through 2024 at least. Once 2025 comes around, the buyout reduces to 85% of the remaining buyout.

Editor’s note: There is no magical date in the buyout. The buyout is 100% of his salary through 2024. The buyout reduces as Neal Brown is paid his salary as a coach. The numbers in this chart represent the amount owed to the coach at the start of each calendar year. If he is released after January 1 of that year, the amount owed to him as a “buyout” is reduced because he would have been paid a portion of that amount as a salary payment.

Neal Brown’s Buyouts By Year

Year Salary Buyout
Year Salary Buyout
2022 $3,500,000 $20,200,000
2023 $4,000,000 $16,700,000
2024 $4,100,000 $12,700,000
2025 $4,200,000 $7,310,000
2026 $4,400,000 $3,740,000
Neal Brown’s Buyout Status Jake Lantz

There are the numbers in black and white. The school is looking at needing to raise $20 million just to get rid of Brown this year. They’ll need another 3-4 million just to buy out the coaching staff. $25M is a lot to ask of any school and a lot to ask for West Virginia, but as someone who works in contracts once told me, “schools never write a contract they can’t get out of” meaning if Lyons needs to get rid of Brown, he has a way. It may be painful both for him and the donors, but it can be done.

Still, the cost of the buyout is why I think Brown is here through January 1, 2023 at least. If I were running the show, I would begin putting a coaching search together but I would give the staff a chance to turn it around. It is only two games. There is still a chance this team can win six of their next ten games and make a bowl game. If they can, would it show the progress necessary to keep the coach?

Yesterday’s loss was, for me, the Colorado loss under Bill Stewart. It was the same vibe, same idea, same feeling and potentially could be the same result. I remember the Colorado game. You know how I remember the Colorado game? Every year my Facebook memories popup with the statement of “That’s it, I am officially done with Stewart and until we remove this man I can’t watch”. That was emotional me. That was me last night.

So what do we do? I think you have to see if Brown can right the ship. Give him the opportunity to get through Texas. Why Texas? Because there is a two-week gap between Texas and Baylor. Why Texas? Because it also reinforces your decision. If Brown can turn it around, you can maybe swallow your pride and let the season play out - which is what I think is going to happen. If Brown’s team collapses, you can say you didn’t overreact to one loss. Despite what you and I and other fans might feel, Lyons’ job is not to overreact. But! it is to react to the situations presented and he must react.

So I would give Brown through Texas to either reinforce the decision to let him go or see if he has the ability to turn this ship around and get them back on board. I would make this the final season Brown is in charge. Ultimately, he is 17-20 through three seasons and two games. He lost to Kansas. His teams have failed to get better throughout the season. His teams are undisciplined, which was the big complaint about the previous coaching staff. He has been lapped by teams that performed a coaching replacement after he was hired.