West Virginia University’s commitment to football coach Neal Brown grew a little bit longer and a little bit richer Thursday afternoon.
WVU Athletic Director Shane Lyons announced that the two parties had agreed on a 2-year contract extension. With four years left on his existing deal, the extension locks Brown in for the next six seasons, through 2026, with the totality of the agreement worth $23.85 million, an average of $3,975,000 per season.
“Coach Brown and I are committed to the future success of our football program,” Lyons said. “I am pleased with the upward trajectory of the program and its culture. Our student-athletes have excelled on the field and in the classroom, and the overall leadership of Mountaineer football is strong.”
The extension also includes performance incentives and increases the combined salaries issued to Brown’s staff of assistant coaches to $4 million.
“I want to thank President [Gordon] Gee, Shane and Keli Zinn for their unwavering support of our football program,” said Brown, 41. “I also want to thank our players, coaches and staff for their commitment and dedication to West Virginia University.
“As we enter year three, I look forward to getting our fans back in the stadium and building on the momentum we have going in our program.”
The 2020 season was the second with Brown at the helm, and the team took significant strides nearly across the board in finishing 6-4, after compiling a 5-7 record in 2019, Brown’s first.
Those improvements were especially evident on defense, as West Virginia ranked fourth in the country in yards allowed per game in 2020, yielding just 291.4 yards per contest, and ranked first nationally in passing defense, with opponents throwing for an average of 159.6 yards. Both of those numbers were dramatic enhancements after the Mountaineers were 74th in total defense in 2019 (399.3 yards per game) and 88th against the pass (239.9 yards per game) in 2019.
All told, West Virginia was statistically the most-improved team in the country, in terms of total offense and total defense combined, as the Mountaineers went from 119th (321.9 yards per contest) to 50th (412.6 yards per contest) with the ball.
WVU also produced just the 12th consensus All-American in program history this past fall in Fairmont Senior High product Darius Stills. The defensive lineman and linebacker Tony Fields are expected to be chosen in the upcoming NFL draft.
Brown came to WVU after engineering a similar turnaround at Troy. The Trojans went 4-8 in 2015, Brown’s first season at the helm, before going a combined 31-8 over the next three years, leading him to Morgantown to take over before the 2019 season, when he signed a six-year deal worth $19 million.
Now, that deal is a little longer and a little more lucrative.