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The True Cost to Find a New Head Coach

Coaching changes cost money, time and recruits/players. This is the breakdown of all that.

After Saturday’s loss to Oklahoma State, the West Virginia Mountaineers find themselves at 4-3, 2-2 in Big 12 play and a head coach who is once again firmly on the hot seat. Losing on Saturday was nothing new, given that the Mountaineers have lost 29 times under the head coach, but the loss on Saturday appears to have turned the tide of most of the ardent supporters for Brown. Saturday confirmed a lot of items for many fans, those who said he sits on leads, coaches to lose and many other items. It seemed to permanently break those who have supported him through the past 4 and a half years.

So now you’re going to want to know what the cost would be if the Mountaineers do the unthinkable and actually fire Brown and I’m going to lay out the costs for you. You already know that its going to cost a pretty penny but I think I can make the case that it isn’t nearly as bad as you suspect.

If the Mountaineers fire Brown before the end of the season, yes, its going to cost them some cash, but if they wait until the end, its going to cost them a good bit less.

First things first, if you don’t know by now, Neal Brown has a guaranteed contract, signed by Brown after the 2020 season in which he led the team to a 5-4 regular season, beat Army in the Liberty Bowl and then sniffed around opened jobs at South Carolina and spooked then Athletic Director Shane Lyons into giving Brown a contract extension. The extension is bad, but even the original contract gave Brown the guarantee that if he failed, he would be paid.

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

Brown has a guaranteed salary of 4.1 million next year, 4.2 million in 2025 and 4.4 million in 2026. He’s also guaranteed the remainder of his 2023 salary, which as of today, is $756,000. Let’s assume that Brown is fired near the end of 2023 for this experiment. If he is, he will be owed 12.6 million, but Brown’s contract contains a clause that says that Brown will be paid in monthly installments through the duration of the contract. That’s $352,000 per month for 36 months.

But what about the buyout you ask? Brown does not have a buyout like you see in many contracts, something that requires West Virginia University to pay Brown to go away. Brown is owed his full contract, but that monthly payment rider is a big outlier for WVU and likely will be the reason that what WVU chooses to pay Brown will reduce. Cash in hand is better than cash in the future and Brown most likely is going to want cash in hand if he is no longer the coach at West Virginia.

What will that be, we can only speculate however, assuming anywhere between 65-75% of the total owed is likely a good starting place. Taking the high end, Brown and WVU negotiate a lump sum payment of 75% his remainder owed would require West Virginia to pay Brown $9.5M. That number seems much more palatable, especially when you consider that West Virginia would have to wait until January 1, 2025 have Brown’s guaranteed salary down to that level.

Firing Brown isn’t the only thing that the Mountaineers would have to do. They have to also release Brown’s current staff of 10 assistant coaches. That often means paying those assistants their due salary minus the amount they would earn if they take another job. Seven of the ten assistants are on the last year of their contract, so West Virginia will not be on the hook for their future salaries. The only three coaches who are signed for next year are Defensive Coordinator ($750,000), wide receivers coach Bilal Marshall ($200,000) and tight ends coach Blaine Stewart ($200,000). That’s only $1,150,000 and that those numbers will reduce if any of the three take a coaching job. If for instance, Lesley becomes the defensive line coach at a school for $300,000, West Virginia would owe him the difference of 750K and his current salary of 300K - $450,000. The same holds true for Marshall and Stewart.

WVU Assistant Coaches Salaries

Chad Scott 1-year $0 $430,000
Chad Scott 1-year $0 $430,000
Jordan Lesley 2-year $750,000 $700,000
ShaDon Brown 1-year $0 $450,000
Matt Moore 1-year $0 $440,000
Andrew Jackson 1-year $0 $275,000
Jeff Koonz 1-year $0 $400,000
Donatae Wright 1-year $0 $275,000
Sean Reagan 1-year $0 $240,000
Bilal Marshall 2-year $200,000 $200,000
Blaine Stewart 2-year $200,000 $200,000
2024 Salary 2023 Salary
WVU Assistant Coaches Salaries Jake Lantz

Of course West Virginia then needs to find a new head coach and a new coaching staff but Neal Brown’s contract should not scare anyone into thinking that West Virginia can’t pay him off. A total of 10.6M to get rid of a sub-.500 coach and his staff that has ranked near the bottom in turnovers, turnover margin and wins is not the end of the world. Its also considerably less than what other teams have paid their coaches to stop coaching.

Arizona State paid Herm Edwards 4M to go away. Auburn is paying Bryan Harsin 15M to not coach. Colorado is paying Karl Dorrell 8.7M to not coach. Georgia Tech is paying Geoff Collins 11 million and Nebraska paid Scott Frost 15 million.

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