After Dana Holgorsen exited upon season’s end, West Virginia has quickly landed on Troy’s Neal Brown as their new head coach.
West Virginia’s 2018 football season ended a week ago, with a loss to Syracuse in the Camping World. Quick speculation head coach Dana Holgorsen would leave for the University of Houston came to fruition earlier this week, and after conducting multiple interviews West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons said he hoped to have a new coach in place by the weekend.
One of those interviewees was Troy head coach Neal Brown, and according to Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports, a six-year deal for him to replace Holgorsen is being finalized. So the required effort to move quickly, and a proverbial deadline, will bring one of the rising young coaches in college football to Morgantown. The 38-year old was a rumored candidate for other openings in this hiring cycle, but nothing seemed particularly close to happening elsewhere.
Brown spent four seasons as head coach at Troy, with three straight double-digit win seasons and a 3-0 record in bowl games on his way to a 35-16 overall mark. Going back to his time as an offensive coordinator at Troy, Texas Tech and Kentucky Brown has guided good offenses, including a Troy offense that was nearly top-50 in the country in scoring offense this year (30.7 points per game; 51st) and finished top-60 in FBS in rushing output (58th).
Any concerns about Brown jumping to a Power 5 school can be set aside by upset wins over LSU (2017) and Nebraska (2018) over the last two seasons. Mountaineers’ fans who loved Holgorsen’s consistently prolific offenses should also expect a pretty seamless transition, as Brown taps into Big 12-level talent in his return close his home state of Kentucky.
Being forced into urgency with an abbreviated coaching search invites the risk of a rushed decision that’ll look bad quickly. But West Virginia surely had some idea Holgorsen would look to leave, as his buyout dropped a lot at the dawn of the new year, and the move to hire Brown may have been on its way to being ordained before (perhaps well before) Holgorsen’s departure was official.