CHARLESTON, W.Va. — WVU football coach Neal Brown got his first full taste of West Virginia’s capital city and the Kanawha Valley on Monday.
Brown, appearing at the WVU Mountaineer Athletic Club Scholarship Dinner inside the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center, said the day was his first in Charleston as far as going to functions and meeting fans since becoming the coach.
He said the event’s reception from WVU faithful has been like his overall reception since taking over in January: outstanding.
“I appreciate the people here and our fan base for welcoming not only myself and our family but also the staff and their families as well,” Brown said. “We have a lot of people in our building that are excited about working in West Virginia and being a part of the football program.”
“This area has been really fruitful in the past for West Virginia. We’ve got a couple guys like Derrek Pitts, Casey Legg, Kerry Martin Jr. that are integral parts of what we are doing right now. We want to have a great presence here. This is Mountaineer country.”
Born and raised in Kentucky, Brown said the similarities between his hometown and towns across West Virginia was a factor in coming to Morgantown.
He and his wife also liked the fact that West Virginia has no professional teams in the major sports leagues, making it feel like the entire state is behind the program.
Brown is looking forward to meeting a lot of the fan base in the coming months at similar events to Monday’s.
“I think it is important to get out within the state of West Virginia and be around our fan base,” Brown said.
“I think it is our responsibility as football coaches of West Virginia to get out and be among the people. That is something that I do enjoy.”
The team is just coming off its annual spring game on April 13.
Brown said the crowd at Mountaineer Field at Milan Puskar Stadium for that game reemphasized what he thought about the WVU fanbase.
“I expected a good crowd, especially once I saw the weather forecast,” he said. “What was really impressive to me is they showed up really early. It was a 1 o’clock kick and most of them were in the stands by 12:15 and they stayed until the end.”
“The fact that they stayed further emphasized they are a passionate fan base.”
Now the team will focus on finishing finals strong before getting a period of rest in May, Brown said. Players are able to go back to where they are from to “relax and hit the reset button.”
Brown said after the rest period, the team comes back for a crucial summer training period in June and July.
“We’ve got to grow chemistry-wise,” he said. “We are going to bring 19 new student-athletes into our program, many of those who are going to be called upon to play. We’ve got to grow with team wise chemistry.”
As for now, Brown will continue to visit towns across the state, including a Coaches Caravan in Wheeling, Martinsburg, Parkersburg, Princeton, and Beckley.