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Neal Brown Listed Among Seven CFB Coaches With Jobs on the Line

NCAA Football: West Virginia at Baylor

West Virginia head football coach Neal Brown has had a less-than-ideal tenure during his time in Morgantown. After three consecutive double-digit win seasons at Troy, the Mountaineers hired Brown ahead of the 2019 season, in which his inaugural WVU team went 5-7.

Now, three seasons later, Brown has a career record of 22-25 at West Virginia, his best season, a 6-4 finish in 2020, coming during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brown is currently making $4.4 million annually at West Virginia and is under contract until 2026 after signing a two-year extension following the 2020 season. It was widely speculated that Brown would be gone following the dismissal of former Athletic Director Shane Lyons, but his $17 million buyout kept that from happening.

 

After the 2023 season, Brown’s buyout drops to $13 million, which might be an easier pill to swallow if he can’t turn it around this year. But, there’s still a chance that Brown could coach his way out of the hole he finds himself in. According to CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd though, he’d better get it figured out in a hurry.

Brown finds himself near the top of Dodd’s 2023 Hot Seat Rankings, and is rated as a 5 out of 5 on the chart, which means it’s “win or be fired.”

“Brown has to win — now. While the Big 12 is getting hipper, cooler, and sexier under commissioner Brett Yormark, WVU would merely settle for a winning season,” Dodd writes. “The program is coming off consecutive losing seasons for the first time since 1978-79. A third straight would mark the first trend since a four-year bender from 1976-79. WVU is better than this. For some reason, this Mike Leach disciple has only one winning season across four tries. Former AD Shane Lyons lost his job, in part, because he didn’t get rid of Brown. New AD Wren Baker has elected to keep Brown — for now. The buyout is a reported $16.7 million.”

2022 rating: 2

 

Brown is joined by Indiana’s Tom Allen and New Mexico’s Danny Gonzales as the only FBS coaches listed at a five out of five on the Hot Seat scale.

Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher (4), Syracuse’s Dino Babers (4), Arkansas State’s Butch Jones (4), and Rice’s Mike Bloomgren (4) also make the list with four out of five, or “start improving now.”

Unfortunately for Brown, the upcoming season doesn’t bode too well for a turnaround year. The Mountaineers (56th in ESPN SP+) face Penn State (8, SP+) and Pittsburgh (41, SP+) in the nonconference before playing Texas Tech (38, SP+), TCU (20, SP+), UCF (35, SP+), Cincinnati (46, SP+), Oklahoma (13, SP+), Oklahoma State (39, SP+) and Baylor (32 SP+) amongst others in their conference slate.

Being viewed as an underdog in nine of 12 games isn’t exactly the odds you want heading into a make-or-break season, but that’s where Brown finds himself heading into 2023. If West Virginia makes a bowl game this season, he’ll likely get another season to iron things out, but miss a bowl for a second straight year, and the Mountaineers will likely move on.

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