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West Virginia hires Troy’s Brown for 6 years, $19.05 million

January 6, 2019
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FILE - In this Sept. 1, 2018, file photo, Troy head coach Neal Brown watches during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Boise State, in Troy, Ala. West Virginia and Troy's Neal Brown are completing a deal to make him the next coach of the Mountaineers, two people familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Friday, Jan. 4, 2018. The people spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because the contract was not yet final.(AP Photo/Butch Dill, File)

West Virginia hired Troy’s Neal Brown on Saturday to coach the Mountaineers, landing the youngest of six coaches in the FBS who have won at least 10 games each of the last three seasons.

The 38-year-old Brown signed a six-year, $19.05 million contract and replaces Dana Holgorsen, who left West Virginia to become Houston’s coach.

“When I started this national search, I learned quickly that he checked all the boxes for what I was looking for in our next football coach,” West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons said.

Brown coached Troy since 2015 and went 35-16 at the Sun Belt Conference school in Alabama, including 3-0 in bowl games. His teams won at Nebraska this past season and at LSU in 2017. The Trojans lost 30-24 at Clemson in 2016, the season the Tigers won the national title.

“He is a well-respected man of purpose and integrity and has a strong exciting vision to lead our program to unprecedented places,” university president Gordon Gee said.

Brown was offensive coordinator at Kentucky for two years before being hired at Troy as one of the youngest head coaches in the FBS. Before his two-year stint with the Wildcats, he served at offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Texas Tech (2010-12) and Troy (2008-09). He is part of the Air Raid offense tree that stems from former Kentucky coach Hal Mumme and Washington State coach Mike Leach. Brown played receiver at Kentucky under Mumme from 1998-2000.

Brown took over a Troy program that had a history of success under longtime coach Larry Blakeney but had regressed in the early 2010s. The Trojans went 4-8 under Brown in 2015 but have won double-digit games each season since. The other FBS coaches who have won at least 10 games the past three seasons are Alabama’s Nick Saban, Ohio State’s Urban Meyer, Washington’s Chris Petersen, Boise State’s Bryan Harsin and Clemson’s Dabo Swinney.

Troy won the Sun Belt in 2017 and went 20-3 in the conference over the last three seasons under Brown.

Even with his Air Raid background, Brown has shown the ability to win with different styles at Troy. His offenses have operated more deliberately at times when the Trojans have been stronger on the defensive side and have been more run heavy when he has had an inexperienced quarterback.

Brown takes over a program that has done well under Holgorsen, going 61-41 in eight seasons, but has yet to win a Big 12 Conference championship since joining in 2012. The Mountaineers are looking at a rebuilding season in 2019 after the departures of star quarterback Will Grier, receiver David Sills V, linebacker David Long and offensive tackle Yodny Cajuste. West Virginia went 8-4 in 2018 and was in the College Football Playoff race before losing its last two regular-season games.

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