Neal Brown

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WATCH: Neal Brown says goodbye to Troy football fans with farewell address

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He didn’t have to do it, but Neal Brown felt Troy fans deserved to hear from him one final time before officially moving on to take on the role of head coach at West Virginia. At halftime of a home men’s basketball game, Brown took to mid-court with a microphone in hand to address the fans of the Trojans one final time.

His act of taking to the court to speak directly to Troy fans before he departs for Morgantown speaks volumes of the kind of character Brown is, and both Troy and West Virginia fans should take pride in having Brown be a part of their respective programs, whether Troy fans remembering the work done by Brown over the past four seasons or West Virginia fans looking forward to seeing this leader come into their program to hopefully achieve comparable success with the Mountaineers.

Watching the video, you can see Brown gets a bit choked up a bit as he comes to grips that his time at Troy has come to an end. even though he is taking on a new challenge, you can tell he is not leaving Troy without a great amount of respect for what the program and university have meant to him.

West Virginia officially announced the hiring of Brown earlier on Saturday. Troy is currently searching for a new head coach to take over the Trojans football program.

West Virginia makes hiring of Neal Brown official

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West Virginia athletics director Shane Lyons wanted to have a new head coach named by the weekend. Mission accomplished. Neal Brown has officially been named as the new head coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers, becoming the 35th head coach in program history.

Brown signed a six-year contract valued at $19,050,000, as announced by West Virginia on Saturday. He will be the highest paid first-year coach in the Big 12 Conference in 2019, topping the salaries for new Big 12 head coaches Matt Wells at Texas Tech, Les Miles at Kansas and Chris Klieman at Kansas State. Brown replaces Dana Holgorsen, who was hired away by Houston earlier in the week.

“I am excited that Neal Brown and his family have decided to call West Virginia University their next home,” Lyons said in a released statement. “When I started this national search, I learned very quickly that he checked all the boxes of what I was looking for in our next football coach. There is no question that the Mountaineers are West Virginia’s team, and I know our fans are going to love his energy, passion, work ethic and excitement that he is going to bring to our program. I look forward to working together and supporting him and his staff to bring championships to Morgantown.”

Brown comes to West Virginia following a very successful stint at Troy. Brown accumulated a record of 35-16 in four seasons as the head coach of the Trojans with 10-win seasons in each of the past three seasons and three consecutive bowl victories for the program. Brown took over the head coaching job at Troy for his first head coaching position, although he previously was an assistant at Troy from 2006 through 2009 before becoming an offensive coordinator at Texas Tech from 2010 through 2012. Brown replaced Lincoln Riley as offensive coordinator for the Red Raiders in 2010 following a coaching change with the program from Mike Leach to Tommy Tuberville. Brown moved to Kentucky as the Red Raiders made another coaching change from Tuberville to Kliff Kingsbury. After two seasons in Lexington, Brown got his first head coaching opportunity at Troy.

Brown coached Troy to a share of the Sun Belt Conference championship in 2017 and a division championship this past season. West Virginia has hired a coach who knows how to win. Now it will be about transferring that success to the Big 12, where Oklahoma remains at the top of the conference and Texas is claiming to be back. Brown will quickly be able to begin the transition as the Mountaineers figure to have some new looks on the roster next season following a few key departures from the program such as quarterback Will Grier.

Troy is now opening up their own search for a new head coach. Troy and Temple are the only FBS programs currently without a head coach.

West Virginia hoping to have new coach by weekend

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In not so surprising news, West Virginia is hoping to have a new head coach for the football program within days. According to a report from MetroNews, the WVU Athletics Director Shane Lyons would ideally like to have a replacement for Dana Holgorsen, who was whisked away by Houston, by the weekend.

“We’re going to be thorough, but at the same time, we’re going to be swift,” Lyons said.

The good news for West Virginia fans is Lyons was able to get a jump on the coaching search process, which has now reportedly included formal interviews with Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell, Troy head coach Neal Brown, and West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. This is because the speculation Holgorsen was going to leave the program for Houston was running rampant enough as Houston waited out the drop in Holgorsen’s buyout to fall to $1 million on January 1. Even though Lyons knew nothing could become official at Houston until the drop in the buyout and Houston took care of some formalities behind the scenes, Lyons was aware of the need to be acting on a search.

It can always be tricky having to conduct a coaching search this time of the year because the coaching carousel had mostly come to a rest, however, Fickell and Brown are intriguing candidates that are more than likely going to one-day get an opportunity to coach at a power conference. Fickell has had one year coaching a power conference program when he was named the interim head coach at Ohio State following the dismissal of former Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel and prior to the hiring of the now former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer.

Fickell’s one season as a head coach at Ohio State was a challenge and the Buckeyes went 6-7, but six years later he got his first chance to become a head coach again at Cincinnati. In two years at Cincinnati, Fickell brought the Bearcats back to being one of the top programs in the AAC with a record of 11-2 this past season. Brown has just wrapped up his fourth season as head coach at Troy with a cumulative record of 35-16 and three straight bowl victories.

Four fumbles cost Buffalo in Dollar General Bowl as Troy celebrates third-straight bowl victory

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Buffalo (10-4) had a case of fumblitis in the Dollar General Bowl Saturday night, and it cost them. The Bulls were defeated by Troy (10-3), 42-32, as the Bulls fumbled the football six times, losing four.

In the third quarter, Troy managed to pull off the kind of feat you are probably more likely to see from a triple-option offense like Army. The Trojans managed to keep the Buffalo offense off the field for the entire third quarter. The Trojans opened the half with the football and scored. They then pulled off a brilliantly executed onside kick to keep possession of the football and drove the ball down to the six-yard line. But a fumble by B.J. Smith was picked up by Buffalo’s Tyrone Hill, who raced down the field 93 yards for a defensive touchdown to give Buffalo the lead, 24-21.

Troy’s offense went right back to work on the ensuing possession though, traveling 69 yards over 12 plays to retake the lead, 28-24, on a Damion Willis touchdown reception from the two-yard line. After sitting on the sideline or in the locker room for a little more than an hour, Buffalo’s offense finally got back on the field early in the fourth quarter, only to go three-and-out. Troy would add to their lead on the next drive with a quick three-play drive for a touchdown. Sawyer Smith completed a 45-yard touchdown pass to Sidney Davis to extend the lead to 35-24.

Buffalo was down but not out. The Bulls charged forward with a 10-play drive ending in the end zone with a Tyree Jackson touchdown pass to K.J. Osborn, and a successful two-point conversion brought Buffalo within three. The Buffalo defense then forced Troy to punt as the time was continuing to become a factor. Starting with the football at their 21-yard line and about three and a half minutes to play, Buffalo’s hopes of another score were quickly tossed aside when Jackson fumbled the ball away. It took Troy just one play to run right up the middle for a dagger of a touchdown with Sidney Davis reaching the end zone on a 20-yard run on the first play from scrimmage.

Although this was the most successful season in Buffalo history, the Bulls see their season left unfulfilled. Buffalo lost the MAC Championship Game against Northern Illinois that came into the game with five losses and then end the year with a loss in a bowl game. Buffalo’s search for their first bowl victory in program history continues. Things may have ended on a sour note for Buffalo this season, but that should not take away from the continued success head coach Lance Leipold is having with the program. In his fourth season on the job, Leipold has coached Buffalo to a school-record for wins in a single season and the bar has been raised moving forward.

Neal Brown continues to be doing a solid job at Troy as well. The win over Buffalo clinched a third-consecutive 10-win season for the Trojans, each finishing with a victory in a bowl game. Troy has gone a combined 31-8 in the past three seasons after going 4-8 in Brown’s first season as head coach of the program in 2015.

The loss by Buffalo dropped the MAC to a woeful bowl record of 1-5 as the conference wrapped up its bowl schedule. Ohio scored the only bowl victory for the conference this season while the rest of the MAC’s bowl teams lost by a combined 70 points, including losses by both division winners in the conference this season. The Sun Belt Conference has one more team in action this bowl season (Arkansas State), and currently holds a bowl record of 3-1. The win by Troy clinched a winning bowl season for the conference for the third straight season (11-4 in bowl games since 2017).

UCF, Lane Kiffin, Neal Brown among college football underdogs celebrating NCAA Tournament madness

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The NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament has been a joy to watch over the course of the first few days. Highlighted by some significant upsets and some thrilling finishes, this year’s tournament has everybody talking, including college football coaches. This is especially true for college football’s non-power conference programs, who seem to be celebrating the upsets performed early on by schools like Marshall, Loyola-Chicago and, of course, UMBC.

UCF took to Twitter to extend congratulations to the University of Maryland Baltimore County after the 16-seed Retrievers became the first team in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s history to upset a No. 1 seed, in which UMBC throttled No. 1 Virginia by 20 after an unbelievable second-half performance that left Virginia clueless how to respond.

UMBC has been the story of the first round for the historic upset of the Cavaliers, but FAU head coach Lane Kiffin claims he picked UMBC to win the game. In fact, Kiffin showed off a bracket in which he picked UMBC to win it all. Of course, such a bracket cannot be taken too seriously, especially after closer inspection reveals Kiffin went heavy with the underdog mentality throughout his bracket. Perhaps such a bracket strategy plays into the kind of mentality Kiffin is attempting to build at FAU.

Troy coach Neal Brown also used the UMBC upset to make a case for the Group of Five representation in college football to get more of a fair shake in the sport of college football.

Brown is not the only person to have this thought, although the idea has just as many on the other side of the fence as well. The College Football Playoff is a much smaller system to determine a college football champion and expansion is a hot-button topic of conversation for a variety of reasons. The current format allows for one guaranteed spot in a major bowl game for the highest-ranked conference champion from the non-power conferences, but undefeated UCF was still left out of the College Football Playoff last season and it may be a long time before a non-power conference champion gets a shot at the playoff.

Washington State head coach Mike Leach has proposed a 64-team college football playoff, but the most likely step for expansion of the playoff system will double the field to eight teams. That would still likely leave out some top non-power conference options, but it would leave the door open just a little wider for a team like UCF last year.