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Neal Brown Explains How He’s Changed at West Virginia

Dec 27, 2023; Charlotte, NC, USA; West Virginia Mountaineers head coach Neal Brown holds up the championship trophy after the game at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Since taking over as the Mountaineers’ head coach in 2019, it would appear at first glance that Neal Brown has been on quite the rollercoaster ride.

In reality, it’s been pretty consistent in Morgantown.

In Year 1, West Virginia was 5-7 but did improve in Year 2, going 6-4 and winning the Liberty Bowl. Year 3 resulted in another six-win campaign, but 6-7 doesn’t sound nearly as good as 6-4, and then a 5-7 year in 2022 had folks in and around the WVU program feeling like it might be time for a change.


Then, in 2023, Brown and the Mountaineers had a breakthrough, going 9-4 and finishing the year ranked inside the Top 25.

So, what happened? What changed enough for “Trust the Climb” to go from a mockery of Brown’s time in charge to an endearing quote that many WVU fans are echoing heading into his sixth year?

Well, according to Brown, it hasn’t been his approach to things on the football field, but rather the way that he approaches the people around him.


“When I first got here, we were coming off success at Troy. That was a place I was returning to when I got there.” Brown told Times West Virginia.

After serving as an assistant and coordinator at Texas Tech and Kentucky, Brown got his first chance as a head coach at Troy, where he went 4-8 in his first season. Then, over the next three seasons, Brown led the Trojans to a 31-8 collective record with one Sun Belt Conference title and three consecutive bowl victories.

Then, when he was hired at West Virginia, he had to start things all over again and build from the ground up—and this time it was at the Power Five level.

“We got here and it was different. There was a lot of change. We had COVID. A bunch of different things were going on,” Brown said.


But it wasn’t just what was going on on the field, but more so about the things going on off the field and all around him. While still a football coach, Brown was still responsible for being a father and a husband.

“For me, the thing I probably underestimated the most was life change,” Brown continued “I was sitting there at Troy and my kids weren’t very old, they didn’t have very many activities. Now, I’m going into Year 6, and I have a 16-year-old (Adalyn) who is going to be a junior (in high school) and has played softball all over the country. I have a 13-year-old (Anslee) who is going to be an eighth-grader and has played soccer, softball, and middle school basketball. My 9-year-old (Dax) is getting into a lot of things.

“You are in a different stage of life, and you have to keep your priorities where they need to be. You have to change some things, right?”

When the winning just wasn’t coming like he’d hoped, Brown had to sit down and reflect on what got him to this point. During last offseason, Brown says he “hit the reset” button and went back to what he knows best.

“I realized that the best thing for me and the program was for me to focus on was what I’m good at,” he said. “Where my strengths lie is on the offensive side … from game planning, teaching and things associated with offense.”

In short, West Virginia had its breakthrough moment in Brown’s fifth season at the helm, and much of that has to do with the head coach doing what he is best at, and making sure that the things he needs to delegate are given to the right person for the job. While that sounds simple, it’s incredibly hard for a man—now heading into his 10th season as a head coach—to change the way he’s handled things to this point. But, in the end, that change led to major success and perhaps the turnaround of his career in Morgantown.

“How have I changed? Well, I focus on what my strengths are and on what’s necessary. If it’s not one of those two things, then we make sure we have the right people in place to lead in those areas.”

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