MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia administrators are wrapping up a 48-hour period in which they staged interviews with Cincinnati’s Luke Fickell, Troy’s Neal Brown and current Mountaineers defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. The aim is to name a replacement for football coach Dana Holgorsen by the weekend.
“We’re going to be thorough, but at the same time, we’re going to be swift,” athletics director Shane Lyons said Thursday.
Lyons had known for several days that Holgorsen was taking the job at Houston, but Holgorsen’s reps did not give West Virginia official notice until after 2 p.m. on Wednesday. In the meantime, Lyons began vetting candidates.
“We were hoping everything would happen quicker on the other end, but it wasn’t and I couldn’t slow down,” Lyons said.
The college football recruiting “dead period” ends Jan. 10, at which point West Virginia would like to have its new coach working to shore up a recruiting class that’s two-thirds complete
Lyons is leading the search with heavy input from WVU president Gordon Gee, who previously was involved with high-profile coaching transitions at Ohio State.
“Ultimately he’s all of our bosses, so for him to be involved and showing his passion for sports is important to any candidate,” Lyons said.
Gee was Ohio State’s president in 2011 when Fickell spent a season as interim head coach during the transition from Jim Tressel to Urban Meyer.
Fickell recently wrapped up an 11-2 season at Cincinnati and returns a young roster primed for an even better run in 2019. He served as the Buckeyes defensive coordinator for 11 years.
Brown has steered Troy to three straight double-digit win seasons, features a 35-16 record overall and is another offshoot of Hal Mumme’s “Air Raid” tree. He calls the plays at Troy and figures to continue doing so upon landing a Power Five job.
Gibson is considered a long shot for the job, sources told MetroNews, considering Lyons’ preference of landing someone with head coaching experience. But the AD respects Gibson’s perspective on where the program succeeded and lagged under Holgorsen. Gibson is viewed as West Virginia’s top recruiter and has two stints spanning 12 years on staff, including the last five as coordinator.
Current and former Mountaineers players have advocated on social media for his promotion.
“That’s the real reason you enjoy coaching — knowing that the guys you recruited and worked for have your back,” Gibson told MetroNews.
Of course, there’s a chance Gibson could be retained as defensive coordinator by another incoming head coach. However, a source familiar with Brown’s interest in the job said WVU wouldn’t mandate that a new coach keep current staffers.