You’ve heard of the big bang theory.
What WVU’s athletic department did the other day, however, was a big bang necessity.
Quite simply, something had to be done regarding the football program. The team has been floundering. It just got slapped around in a minor bowl by Minnesota. It’s gone from being a point of pride to irrelevancy. In the last three years under head coach Neal Brown, WVU is 17-18.
Also, in a way, athletic director Shane Lyons painted himself in a corner, extending Brown’s contract in April through 2026.
A bad year is not what Brown and Lyons needed. Screaming from the WVU fans over the number of players — many very good players — hitting the transfer portal was hitting a crescendo.
A big bang was needed not only for recruiting, but to again grab the attention of potential season ticket holders.
Then on Monday the athletic director and coach provided the bang.
Graham Harrell, a former pro quarterback, Air Raid disciple and USC offensive coordinator, was signed.
It wasn’t just splashy, it was necessary with WVU’s program in serious need of a defibrillator.
“When I looked at it, I said ‘We just haven’t been good enough, and I think we need to bring in an outside person that has new ideas, somebody that believes in the same ideas I believe in and my staff believes in, and somebody that has some energy,’” Brown told Tony Caridi on the Citynet Statewide Sportsline. “I wanted a proven play caller, and I wanted somebody from a personality standpoint who was a fit, not only for myself but the staff.”
He needed someone to give the WVU offense an identity. He needed a jolt. He got that with the Harrell hire. It was very well-publicized nationally.
“I think when you make a change there has to be real change,” Brown said. “Graham has been successful. He’s got a system he believes in. A lot of the pass and run concepts he’s been using are similar to what we’ve been using and what I think we need to do is kind of thin down. I think we tried to do a lot and that’s on me. We tried to cover up some things instead of really getting good at a few things.”
Credit Brown for taking an honest big-picture look at his program. But also credit Lyons for helping with what could be called the football version of a corporate bailout.
If my research is correct, Travis Trickett, who left to become offensive coordinator at South Florida, was making $310,000 and set to make $330,000 in 2022. According to reporter Jared Serre, Harrell will be making $600,000 through 2023, when his salary jumps to $800,000 and then $850,000.
Of course, the big bang also helps Lyons, who had to have felt some heat as well.
But both Brown and Lyons did what was necessary.
They made the splash. They have Mountaineer fans (at least as I write this) looking to the transfer portal, where ex-USC QB Jaxson Dart sits. They have a recruiting class that was No. 24 by Rivals.
They have something to sell. There is hope.
Here’s wishing all the best in trying to realize that hope.
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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.