West Virginia athletics director Shane Lyons explained Thursday what went into the search for a new head football coach that led to the hiring of Neal Brown, a former UK walk-on receiver and former UK offensive coordinator under Mark Stoops.
Here’s what Lyons said about Brown at the introductory press conference in Morgantown:
“As I entered the search, I was looking for a sitting head coach with experience. Obviously, Neal had that with four years of experience at Troy. I was looking for the fit and culture for our university. Somebody that embraced our values and missions. Not only from the athletic department, but from the University as a whole. Somebody who had an emphasis on the student-athlete experience. You’ll hear Coach talk about the student-athlete experience and the total student-athlete experience. It’s not all about the playing field. It’s off the playing field as well. We want to make sure these guys are having fun and growing socially, as well as academically.
“I was looking for a coach with a proven record of competitive success. Coach had a 35-16 record in a four-year period at Troy. He was 31-8 in the last three years. He was tied with Central Florida for the best record in the nation among the group of five. He had a conference championship and three bowl wins, so obviously, the competitive success box was checked. I wanted a coach who had an emphasis on academics and NCAA compliance. I needed a quality person with a strong work ethic, and every box that I talked about was being checked by Neal Brown.
“As we entered the interview process and had a chance to sit down with him in person, it was very clear and evident that he was going to be the next West Virginia football coach. We talked, and the interview lasted about seven hours. We talked about a number of things throughout those seven hours. The brand of football that he plays. He likes to throw the ball. He has a strong focus on the running game. His team is known for their defense as much as their offense. His team plays with a chip on their shoulder with a blue-collar mentality, which fits us perfectly. We talked about a lot of those things.
“We talked about his passion for the student-athlete. His passion for the game. We also had the chance for Brooke (Brown’s wife) to join us in the last couple hours of the interview. Coach, she was the closer. It was evident that they wanted to be here at West Virginia. They wanted to be our football coach, and they wanted to be the first family of football, so it was evident that we were definitely on the right track.
“As I talk about the process, and the process began a long time before the last week or so. We had systems in place to review coaches. I had my list and always kept it up to date of coaches. We watched and listened from afar. We were prepared. We done our homework. That allowed us to work quickly, effectively and efficiently in naming our next head football coach.
“After we had a chance to come back to Morgantown, sit down and debrief the next morning real quickly, it really became evident. I told our staff that the great state of West Virginia, our alumni and fans, our department and university is going to love this guy. The last week or almost a week since Saturday when we made the official announcement, I can tell you that Mountaineer Nation is once again energized.”