According to multiple reports, West Virginia coach Neal Brown is expected to return as football coach in 2023 as the Mountaineers go through an athletic director change. WVU is hiring North Texas athletic director Wren Baker in the same position Wednesday.
Brown set up a disappointing 5-7 campaign as the program would miss a bowling match appearance for the second time in four seasons. Before Brown, the Mountaineers had missed just one bowling game since 2002—and that 4-8 season came as West Virginia transitioned from the Big East to the Big 12. Brown holds a 22-25 record at Morgantown in four seasons. The only season he won comes during the campaign shortened due to the pandemic in 2020.
Brown was given a lifeline after West Virginia chose to leave athletic director Shane Lyons after spending seven years as president of the athletics division. Lyons signed Brown for a two-year contract extension after starting his career 11-11, and language in the agreement states that if Brown is fired before January 1, 2025, he will receive the remainder of his salary for the duration of the contract. 247Per sport. If West Virginia fires him on January 1, 2023, it will owe Brown approximately $16.7 million.
Baker is a rising star in athletic director circles and arrives in West Virginia as athletic director after seven successful years in North Texas. He is a highly successful fundraiser, helping renovate North Texas’ facilities and breaking new fundraising records each year of his tenure. Baker has previously worked in key roles in Missouri and Memphis.
Although Baker did not hire Seth Littrell as a football coach, he oversaw Mean Green’s trips to five different bowling and two U.S. Conference championship games. Baker also recruited Grant McCasland as the basketball coach who led Mean Green to his first March Madness victory in program history, beating Purdue in 2021. Perhaps most importantly, Baker helped North Texas qualify for the American Athletic Conference for the 2023 season.
Evaluating Brown will be Baker’s top priority in his first season at Morgantown. However, Hall of Famer Bob Huggins will be preparing for life a close second after he retires as a basketball coach. Fundraising will also be crucial for both West Virginia’s athletics department and NIL collectives as the mountaineers try to compete in a new Big 12 Conference.