Why Neal Brown's Deal Came at the Perfect Time

The Mountaineers have locked up their head coach through 2026.
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Thursday evening, West Virginia University Director of Athletics, Shane Lyons, announced that head football coach Neal Brown has been given a two-year contract extension. This will keep Brown in Morgantown through the 2026 season and will make his annual average salary $3,975,000.

Lyons sees that things are trending in the right direction under Neal Brown and wanted to keep his up-and-coming coach in Morgantown for the foreseeable future. In his first two seasons, the Mountaineers have gone 11-11 including a 6-4 season in 2020 that ended with a bowl win vs Army - the school's first bowl victory since the 2016 Motel 6 Cactus Bowl over Arizona State.

Having a .500 record is nothing to be jumping for joy about but you can see that the best is yet to come and Brown is the right man for the job. He has done it through recruiting, assembling a quality coaching staff and support staff, and most importantly, Brown does a lot for his players off the field as well. They launched the 5th Quarter Program which helps character development, leadership development, real-life, career development, and social responsibility. Last May, the program announced a partnership with a business consultant, Jeremy Darlow, to help educate student-athletes with self-branding.

Internally, Brown and his staff implemented the big brother, little brother program which assigns an underclassman to an upperclassmen to hang out with, ask questions to, and essentially be mentored by. This helps with team bonding and truly helps the young guys transition to college life. 

As for on the football field, West Virginia's growth defensively in just a short two years has been incredible. In 2020, the Mountaineers finished No. 4 in total defense (291.4 YPG) and No. 1 in the country in pass defense (159.6) which is rather impressive for a Big 12 team. Offensively, West Virginia took major steps from 2019 to 2020 thanks to the nation's 14th leading rusher, Leddie Brown, who rushed for 1,010 yards and nine touchdowns. 

Year one under a new coach is always challenging. In Brown's case, he had to make sure he had the right guys in the program, get them to buy into his vision, and lay the foundation for the future. Year two is when it's time to start winning games and becoming competitive, which is exactly what the Mountaineers did this past fall. WVU had a chance to win in every single game except for the regular-season finale where they lost to Iowa State, 42-6. The other three losses came by a combined 25 points. 

In the offseason, rumors began to float around that schools were interested in Neal Brown and that's after just two seasons as a Power Five head coach. If the Mountaineers take another big step in 2021, the list of schools will only increase, hence why Lyons got the deal done prior to the start of the season. 

More importantly, the timing of the deal was perfect. June will be a huge month for recruiting as the NCAA will be allowing recruits to finally visit schools and there are a few dates that WVU will be hosting a number of high profile recruits in not only the 2022 class but the 2023 class as well. Also in the month of June, WVU will be holding several recruiting camps and will be the first time that much of the coaching staff will be evaluating talent on campus since being hired by WVU. The pandemic canceled all recruiting camps a year ago, forcing everything tied to recruiting to go virtual. 

Recruiting camp dates

Mountaineer Made Camp - June 1

Take Me Home Camp - June 7

2023 King of the Climb Camp - Jun 10

Gold & Blue Camp - June 21

West Virginia 7-on-7 Shootout/Big Man Camp - June 18

Mountaineer 7-on-7 Shootout/Big Man Camp - June 23

Getting this deal done prior to the recruiting camps and visits ensures the recruits that Brown's job security is not something to worry about. Prior to the extension, Brown's contract ran through 2024 so even though it was never a major concern from recruits, it's now completely out of the question. With the new deal going through 2026, those from the 2022 recruiting class will be assured that Brown will be there throughout their entire collegiate career. 

Now, Brown can turn his focus on having a solid month of recruiting in June and July before getting season No. 3 underway.

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