By LARRY VAUGHT
If Neal Brown is going to become the next head coach at West Virginia, don’t be surprised if it happens in the next 48 hours.
Houston officially hired Dana Holgorsen away from West Virginia Wednesday after he went 61-41 with the Mountaineers. He spent two seasons as Houston’s offensive coordinator in 2008-09.
Brown, the former Kentucky offensive coordinator, has had three straight 10-win seasons that include a bowl win at Troy and continues to be regarded as a “hot” coaching commodity in part because of his age (38), winning style —Troy won 10 games this year despite losing its starting quarterback to a knee injury — and personality.
Brown’s offensive style should fit well with the type of player that Holgorsen has recruited. He learned the Air Raid playing for Hal Mumme and Mike Leach and then coaching with Tony Franklin, but he also normally has a strong running attack. More importantly, his defenses at Troy have been top 50 nationally three straight seasons.
West Virginia likely has a high school talent base similar to Kentucky and my guess is that Brown would relate well to high school coaches in the state. But his recruiting connections in Texas, Alabama and other states would be a huge plus for him.
Brown is a coach who can unite a fan base with his personality and he also understands how to relate to the media. He can connect with recruits, donors, fans, and media members.
The move could also appeal to Brown because it gets him and his wife closer to their families in Boyle County. He would be about a five-hour drive away and it would be a quicker, easier drive for family members — and friends — to see him, his wife and his three children, ages 10 and under.
It would also give Brown a significant pay raise. I’ve seen speculation that he should hold out for an even bigger, higher paying job. Maybe he should but really what else can he do to enhance his resume at Troy. He’s won at LSU, something non-conference teams don’t do. He’s won at Nebraska.
Some media reports indicate that the West Virginia search has Brown and Cincinnati coach Luke Fickell as the top two candidates. Fickell was offensive coordinator at Ohio State and even interim head coach when Jim Tressel left. He went 4-8 his first season at Cincinnati in 2017 before going 11-2 this year with wins over UCLA and Virginia Tech.
Fickell certainly could be the safer hire, but from what I know about Brown after knowing him more than 25 years, I just think Brown would be the better hire.