MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (January 10, 2019) – Neal Brown was introduced as West Virginia University’s 35th head football coach on Thursday, Jan. 10, in a press conference at the Milan Puskar Center Team Room.
Image: Troy University Athletics
President E. Gordon Gee
Ladies and gentlemen, what an honor it is to have everyone here. This is a very special day. It is a very special moment. I want to say this to the wonderful Brown family, we are an institution of family. West Virginia is a place of family. West Virginia is a place that believes in its institution and university. In fact, we in many ways represent the hopes and dreams of every West Virginian. Our football program, our basketball programs and our athletic programs in general really do carry the flag of West Virginia, and they have done so successfully for a long period of time. Today is a very special day because we have a new flag carrier; a very special one.
I can tell you that when we had the opportunity to speak with Brooke and the coach, very infrequently do you know what is right. Very infrequently do you know how this is going to work. We sought. We believed in it. He believed in us. Brooke believed in us. We had the most wonderful conversation, and for that, we are grateful.
West Virginia University is a place of purpose. I tell everyone if you don’t believe in purpose, if you don’t believe we have a special calling, if you don’t believe in the ministry of West Virginia and its University, then please don’t come here. This is a place of purpose, and we are also a place of inspiration. Today that is what we are celebrating. We are celebrating family. We are celebrating 1.8 million West Virginians. We are celebrating the West Virginian’s around the world who take great pride in this state, and we are celebrating the newest of our family, so coach, welcome to you, and welcome to your family. I am not very good at babysitting. I’m a grandfather. I go and visit them and Uber back to the hotel. We are honored to have you here, and we are honored to have all of your family. Thank you very much for making this decision. This is a special day for West Virginia.
Director of Athletics Shane Lyons
Thank you to everyone for being here today. Like Dr. Gee said, it is an exciting day to be able to introduce a new football coach in West Virginia, Mountaineer football history. It’s also exciting to begin a new chapter in West Virginia football history.
As we started this process, we were obviously looking for a coach who could come in here and fit us as an institution. I do want to recognize Brooke, Adalyn, Anslee and Dax to the family. As Dr. Gee said, this was a family affair as we started this, and they definitely bring every quality in a family that we can think of. I want to thank Dr. Gee for the process. We moved very swiftly on this. His support and making this happen in a quick manor. We worked hand-in-hand to make this happen as swiftly as we could. I also want to thank Bill Wilmoth and David Alvarez of the chair and vice chair of the board of directors for their support. Also, from Dr. Gee’s team, there were a number of people that we had conversations with in the process for their support along the way as well.
From athletics, my right hand (deputy athletic director) Keli Zinn. I could not do this without her and her work behind the scenes of the day-to-day grunt work in the trenches, finding out about coaches and the information. Along with (executive senior associate athletic director) Steve Uryasz, who is not here today, working with us in the interview process. There were a number of other senior staff members who made this happen. It was truly a team effort, and I thank them for their hard work and their effort in this process.
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 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. Neal, we are glad to have you. Ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor and privilege to introduce to you West Virginia University’s 35th head football coach Neal Brown.
Head Coach Neal Brown
Thank you for that introduction and thank you to everyone for being here today and good morning. I appreciate the media being present, key University individuals, boosters. I appreciate you all taking the time to be here. What an honor and what a privilege it is to stand before you today as the head football coach at West Virginia University. You hear that a lot in press conferences, but it’s important for me to tell you why it’s such a privilege. We’ve had a lot of success over the last few years at Troy. That’s why I’m here. When you have success, it creates opportunity.
Other schools want to talk about jobs, and when you get those opportunities, you get an opportunity to find out about that school’s culture, about their administration’s vision and their fan base’s passion for the program. Culture, vision and passion – those are the three things that have always been very important to me and Brooke, who I am going to introduce here in just a second. Those are the three criteria that have factored into each move we’ve made and every opportunity we’ve evaluated over the years.
When I think about culture, when I think about vision, when I think about passion, I think about Coach (Don) Nehlen and the incredible legacy he left here, over two decades of success, and I appreciate the time he spent welcoming me to town and this University on Sunday afternoon. He provided great insight, and I appreciate that. I think about the 14th-winningest program in college football. Wow. I think about 15 conference championships. I think about the flying WV and the hard working, blue-collar people of West Virginia that the WV represents. I think about Country Roads, and I think about one of the best environments in all of college football. West Virginia is culture. It is vision, and it is passion. It was a great fit, it fits my DNA.
I am grateful for Dr. Gee, Shane Lyons, Keli Zinn and the board of governors for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to lead this great program. Their entire team was incredible throughout this process. They were everything you look for from both an athletics and University perspective. The alignment of Dr. Gee, Shane and his team was evident.
Dr. Gee, your vision for this University is crystal clear and it’s invigorating. When you spend time with Dr. Gee, you come away with a deeper appreciation for West Virginia and a sincere belief that nothing is impossible.
Shane, it is clear that you bleed gold and blue. From our first conversation, you were consistent in your message. West Virginia is a special place where we can accomplish great things. I look forward to working with both Dr. Gee and Shane to make the people of this great state proud of how we represent them on a daily basis.
I want to recognize and introduce a few people who proudly define me; my wife, Brooke, who I will talk about here in a second, our children, Adalyn, Anslee and Dax. I probably shouldn’t look at Brooke, so I’ll talk above her. But Brooke, probably more than anybody, understands what this moment means. She’s been by my side through the ups and the downs of this profession. She’s a constant coach’s wife. I wouldn’t be standing here today without her. She’s the head coach at home, but she will also have a prominent role in our program and be very visible in the Morgantown community.
My sister, Beth, is here. She’s a recent law school graduate, I’m proud of her. My parents, Tom and Peggy, and my in-laws, Morris and Pat Stewart – they’re all four teachers, educators. At the heart, I think that’s who we are as well. I also wouldn’t be standing here today without the players, coaches, administration and fans at Troy University. We experienced a lot of success at Troy, because they gave their all every day. (Troy chancellor) Dr. Jack Hawkins and Jeremy McClain, our athletic director, bought into our vision and were completely aligned with what we wanted to accomplish. The players sacrificed individual goals in the interest of the team, and I will forever be grateful for the relationships and the memories that we all made at Troy.
On Sunday night, I stood on this stage. Honestly, I was looking at a group that was probably bigger, faster and stronger than the group I’m looking at now. They better be. But what I told them was, at West Virginia, we were going to be about three things. Number one, we are going to develop young men. I love football and I’m passionate. Athletics has given me every opportunity that I’ve ever had in my life. I think it’s a tool to develop young men. Number two, we’re going to graduate student-athletes and set them up for their future endeavors. Number three, we’re going to win football games. We accomplish these goals by being a player-first program. We build a program around our student-athletes. They are all why we are here and why we do what we do. This program will not be about me.
From our coaching staff, to our academic support, to strength and conditioning, all our support areas and anyone that touches this program, our job is to help our student-athletes develop in all phases. To whom much is given, much is required. That hold true for Mountaineer football. We will provide our student-athletes with every resource they need to be successful, both in the classroom and on the field. With that said, our expectations for our student-athletes are going to be extremely high. We will insure that they carry themselves in a manner that makes us all proud. We will all be accountable to each other, this program and this University. We will be disciplined on and off the field. This is not coach speak, this is a program mandate from day one. We’ll have fun. I think it’s important to have fun. It’s a game. They talk about playing, playing football. I want our players to look forward to coming into the Milan Puskar Center. That doesn’t mean we won’t work hard, we will. But we’re going to enjoy ourselves as we go through the process of getting better.
There have been exciting former players that should be a visible part of our program. I want them to know that they’re welcome here. Jeff Hostetler is doing wonderful work with the children’s hospital. Marc Bulger reached out to me on Twitter. Tavon Austin, Major Harris, Pat (White), Bruce Irvin, Darryl Talley, just to name a few. I want all former Mountaineer players to know you all can come see us. Please be a part of what’s going to be the next chapter of Mountaineer football.
Competition will be key. Our student-athletes will be expected to compete every day in everything. I’m talking about grades, in the offseason, practice effort, in-game performance, everything. I want our staff competing with that same energy and intensity as well. Competition breeds success. Those that possess great competitive character will strive here.
We’re going to recruit, but not only recruit, we’re going to develop. Championship football programs are built through recruiting and development. A program is only as good as its players. I’m from this area, I’ve spent years recruiting this area. I know the type of players in our footprint. They will know who we are and what we’re about. Our coaching staff will be active, they will be visible. We have a tremendous, and I’ll say that, tremendous product to sell here, and our staff will be expected to work extremely hard to evaluate, build relationships and close on the best prospects that fit our program. Keeping the best players in the state at home is a top priority.
From a player-development perspective, we want to make sure that we’re developing the total player mentally, physically and socially. We also focus on things like character development, leadership training.
On the football side, offensively, you all know my background. That’s why I am here. We’re not changing that. We’ll be a fast-paced, attacking offense. We’re going to get playmakers in space and put points on the board. We’re a get-it-done offense, by any means necessary to win the game. We’re going to shots down the field, create explosive plays. We’re also going to be very physical up front, we’re going to run the football. On defense, we’ll be aggressive, playing
fundamentally-sound football with one goal of getting the ball back. We want our players reacting, not thinking.
I’m pleased to announce that Vic Koenning will be our defensive coordinator. Vic has a history of putting together some of the top, attacking defenses in the country. He was a huge part of our success at Troy, he has experience in this league, and I cannot be more excited to have him.
On special teams, we will be opportunistic. I view them as offensive opportunities. We led the nation this season, according to ESPN, in special teams’ efficiency at Troy, and it’s important.
As far as getting started, putting together a staff will be a high priority. I’ll focus over the next couple of weeks on completing our staff – it’s more important to get it right than get it done quickly. So, have patience, media, please, have patience. In addition to Vic, we’ll have a couple of important hires that we’ll release in the next couple of days as they get their contracts signed. I can tell you this: our staff will consist of coaches who appreciate the opportunity that West Virginia offers, and they want to be here. They will be great teachers, great motivators, recruiters. They will care about the young men in our program.
Over the last four days of getting started in this role, it’s been both easy and enjoyable. I greatly appreciate, my family greatly appreciates, the warm reception that we’ve received. I’ve been able to spend a lot of time with our players, getting to know them relationally. I’m excited about them and learning about all of our support staff areas, getting to know them. We have a lot of pieces in place here.
I’m a basketball fan, and I enjoyed spending time with Coach (Bob) Huggins and the other coaches. He shared some key insights with me, as well.
Ladies and gentlemen, I cannot be more excited to be your head football coach. We’re going to work, we’re going to compete, we’re going to have fun, at the end of the day, we’re going to make you proud. Cue Country Roads, let’s go Mountaineers.