PARKERSBURG, W.Va. – Fans turning out to see Neal Brown at West Virginia’s annual coaches caravan got a pretty good idea of how comfortable the Mountaineers’ new football coach is in his new surroundings. For that matter, they also learned how comfortable he was before he even arrived.
Brown revealed that he didn’t exactly go Gucci for his interview with WVU president E. Gordon Gee and athletics director Shane Lyons.
“[I] interviewed for this job in blue jeans,” Brown said. “How West Virginia is that?”
A packed house turned out to a local restaurant for the caravan’s Parkersburg stop, which was filled with the generally good vibes that have followed Brown around the state since his January hire. The caravan made stops in Wheeling and Martinsburg on Monday and Tuesday, and will head downstate to Princeton and Beckley later in the month.
There is, of course, good reason for the reception.
“It’s good to come here and be undefeated,” Brown said. “There’s very little to complain about yet.”
Brown will have his work cut out to keep grumbling to a minimum this fall. As spring practice demonstrated, replacing five offensive players who are currently on NFL rosters is not going to be a seamless process. He just hopes to have the kinks worked out in time for the season opener.
“Offensively, we’re really young,” Brown said. “But I think we’ve got some talent. I think we’re headed in the right direction, but I’m glad we’ve got this summer and fall camp to sharpen up before James Madison rolls into town.”
The defense is giving Brown reason to be optimistic about West Virginia’s overall health as the offense puts the pieces together.
“Defensively, we’re working with more pieces than maybe I realized coming in,” Brown said.
Big 12 happy with 10
The 10-member Big 12 is perfectly comfortable continuing its policy of fuzzy titular math.
WVU athletic director Shane Lyons, who recently attended the conference’s spring meetings, said the league is comfortable with its current state following a recent media rights deal with ESPN and ESPN-Plus that runs through the 2024-25 school year.
“The new deal gives us a little more security. We feel very solid with the 10 institutions we have,” Lyons said. “The conference is in good hands as we go forward.”
Top mid-major athletic programs like Central Florida and Houston have made noise in recent years about hoping to earn an invitation to the Big 12, and independent BYU is another program which has been connected to potential expansion talk. For the next five years, however, it appears none of those programs should be expecting a phone call.
On the rocks, or straight up?
Fans had the floor at the coaches caravan, which is to say not every question was football-related.
Brown was asked about his favorite choice of “adult beverage.”
“I’m from Kentucky, so I’ll go with bourbon,” Brown shared.
When emcee Tony Caridi pressed for Brown’s preferred brand, he had the perfect answer.
“I’m looking for sponsorships,” Brown replied.
Blue-and-gold energy source
The idea of a “coal rush” all-black uniform continues to be the white whale for a certain segment of the WVU fanbase. Even though West Virginia’s recent uniform reveal did not include such a set, Brown was still asked about the possibility of it happening in the future.
“I know that our school colors are blue and gold,” was Brown’s coy response.
One question legitimately caught Brown off-guard, and with good reason. A fan wanted to know what he hopes for his legacy to be at West Virginia.
Considering Brown hasn’t coached a single game at WVU, it was a big ask. But he had an answer after a few seconds of thought.
“Your legacy in the game of football is what you put on video. I want us to be a team that’s physical and tough and plays the game the right way,” Brown said. “Off the field, I want them to graduate, to move on and be role models but also to stay home within the state of West Virginia and be leaders in the community, leaders in the state.
“Legacy is a hard thing to answer. We’re just getting this thing started. Winning’s a big piece of it. But if you focus on getting better each and every day over the course of the long haul, you’re gonna win a lot more than you lose. That’s what we plan on getting accomplished.”