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WVU's 'Downturn' Wasn't 'Exaggerated', It's Reality

Neal Brown needs to accelerate the climb before it's too late.

With West Virginia having a bye this week, there's not a whole lot to talk about other than the current state of the program. Let's face it, things are not getting any better and in some respect, things are actually getting worse. 

Following the win over Virginia Tech, one of the worst teams in Power Five football, head coach Neal Brown subtly called out the doubters who created negativity around the program.

“I think the story of our downturn was probably exaggerated. Pitt’s a good football team, and we had a chance to win. It was a fluke play. There were some other plays where we could have won the game. Kansas did a nice job, but we kind of were our own worst enemy. But I knew we were close. We didn’t hit the panic button. I really like our staff, and I felt good about our team going into the year."

My question is, close to what exactly? The Mountaineers followed up their win over the Hokies by laying an egg in Austin - a game that was far worse than the final score indicated. WVU has spent zero weeks in the AP Top 25 and is 2-6 against ranked teams in Brown's three-plus years as head coach. 

So again, I ask, close to what? Being a legitimate team in the Big 12 or just being competitive against the top teams in the league? How long will that take? You don't have to go far to see how fast a turnaround in today's college football should take. Just look within the Big 12 at Baylor and Kansas. Dave Aranda's first year was the pandemic. They won two games that season but the following year they won the Big 12. Then you have Kansas, a team that hadn't won more than three games in a single season since 2007, now sitting at 5-0 and ranked 19th in the country under second-year head coach Lance Leipold.

Turning a program around in two years shouldn't be the expectation, but by year four it most certainly should. If the Mountaineers fail to turn it around, Neal Brown could join the list of Power Five coaches who were fired in 2022. For comparison, below is a look at each of the five head coaches who have already been relieved of their duties along with Brown.

Neal Brown (West Virginia): 19-21

Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Scott Wachter-USA TODAY Sports

Record by year:

5-7

6-4

6-7

2-3

Scott Frost (Nebraska): 16-31, fired in 5th season.

Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Dylan Widger-USA TODAY Sports

Record by year:

4-8

5-7

3-5

3-9

1-2 (FIRED)

Herm Edwards (Arizona State): 26-20, fired in 5th season.

Alex Gould/The Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK

Alex Gould/The Republic-USA TODAY NETWORK

Record by year:

7-6

8-5

2-2

8-5

1-2 (FIRED)

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Geoff Collins (Georgia Tech): 10-28, fired in 4th season.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Record by year:

3-9

3-7

3-9

1-3 (FIRED)

Karl Dorrell (Colorado): 8-15, fired in 3rd season.

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Record by year:

4-2

4-8

0-5

Paul Chryst (Wisconsin): 67-26, fired in 8th season.

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Record by year:

10-3

11-3

13-1

8-5

10-4

4-3

9-4

2-3 (FIRED)

Each of the five was dismissed for different reasons, but the main theme is the case with all firings is they didn't get the job done. Frost, Dorrell, and Collins never got it going whereas Edwards had some success, but allegations of recruiting violations and a loss to Eastern Michigan did him in. Chryst is the outlier. He was fired despite winning three Big Ten championships and winning 67 of 93 games. 

Each administration has a certain level of patience and at some point, that patience evaporates. How close is Shane Lyons to losing all patience with "The Climb"? That's a question that only he knows the answer to. 

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