It was good to see John Raby of the Associated Press reach out to WVU athletic director Shane Lyons in the days after the Mountaineers’ home loss to Kansas.
It’s something I would have done were I back in journalism rather than at dynamic Wheelhouse Creative. It’s something that needed to be done. Because there was a void in the state news cycle that needed to be filled.
Many WVU football fans are disappointed, frustrated and, yes, angry. So… what say you, Shane?
“I know and deeply care that our fans are frustrated with the start of the football season, but so are our coaches and student-athletes, who have busted their tails getting ready for the year,” was Lyons’ response to Raby via a statement. “As athletics director, I am as disappointed as the fans, but I see how much our coaches and players care and want to win and make our fans proud.”
The statement continued.
“Everyone involved knows that the on-field results have not met expectations and absolutely no one is satisfied. There are 10 games left in the season and the focus is still on getting the results that we all expect.”
It doesn’t get clearer than that. Despite the losses to rival Pitt and previously lowly Kansas, Lyons is sticking with head coach Neal Brown, who received an extension in 2021 that goes through 2026.
The reason is easy to understand. According to Raby’s report, if Brown is let go before the end of the season, his buyout is a whopping $20 million. It drops to $16.7 million if fired after Dec. 31, but still…
“I get the frustration,” Brown said Saturday. “I promise you there is no one more frustrated than me. Not that that is going to make (the fans) feel any better, but I get their frustration.”
Of course, after 38 years covering sports in West Virginia, I hear opinions from all sides. But something surprised me when I posted a Twitter poll.
I asked what WVU fans would do if they were Lyons: make a change or be patient.
A good sample size of 578 votes came in. And 53.6 percent said they’d be patient.
Maybe those folks just like Brown, who is indeed likeable. (After covering some of the cats I did, he’d have been a dream to cover.) Maybe those folks understand the buyout issue. Maybe they realize the two losses this season were both close.
Me? I get all. I do, though, think the coaching staff needs to take blame for a lack of discipline at times. There are too many unforced errors. I see some clock management that needs cleaned up. I’d cut down on some JT Daniels passes and increase CJ Donaldson runs. Overall, though, I’m looking for improvement.
But here’s the reality: Lyons has signaled no change is imminent.
So WVU fans have one of two choices. They can support this team, this coaching staff. Or they can choose not to.
Believe me, I’ve had many friends call, text and email me that they’re out. Done. I don’t believe for a second they’ll stop rooting for the Mountaineers – or even watching – but I do think some will withhold donations until a change is made.
The flip side, a complete opposite approach, is to double down on support. I saw WVU will introduce its latest Sports Hall of Fame class on Saturday and wondered how many folks will check it out. WVU is playing Towson, which was picked to finish 11th in the CAA. There’s the disappointment of the first two Mountaineer games.
Yet Geno Smith, Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey are being honored on Saturday. Basketball standout Kevin Jones is being honored, among others.
WVU fans can honor them as well as show support for the team by showing up to the Towson game. They can show support by donating more to WVU’s athletic department or Country Roads Trust. That would give Brown ammo – rather than hell — to get more quality players.
Like it or not, those are the two primary choices I see for WVU fans.
For those that choose to back away, I get it. I hear ya. I feel ya.
But I keep thinking of that Twitter poll. Out of 578 votes, 53.6 percent said they’d be patient. And I get that too. Mountaineer fans will always be Mountaineer fans.
And in that, they have no choice.
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Mitch Vingle covered sports in West Virginia for 38 years. Follow Mitch on Twitter at @MitchVingle and be sure to check out the rest of Wheelhouse Creative’s website for your marketing and advertising needs. If interested, call us at 304-905-6005.