Allegany Communications Sports
One week after a potential ray of light rose from the play of redshirt-sophomore quarterback Garrett Greene and a glimmer of hope existed with two games remaining after West Virginia’s first Big 12 win over Oklahoma, it was pretty much over before last Saturday’s final home game of the season against Kansas State even began.
The new day brought colder and more miserable conditions than even the previous week’s game day with the Sooners had and just 37,000 fans and some change found their way into Mylan Puskar Stadium, filling just 60 percent of its capacity. Sure, it was cold and miserable, but Mountaineer Field was regularly packed in the day when it was cold and miserable, even when the students were away on holiday as they were over the weekend.
Ah, The Day, as romantic recollections of better and more robust times remind us, seems to be a thing of the distant past these days in Morgantown – at least for now, until things can get fixed; and they will, of course, be fixed.
Yet, in the present, a harbinger of what the day would bring for the Mountaineers struck early in the morning, an hour or so before WVU even took the field for its eventual 48-31 loss to Kansas State.
Senior cornerback Charles Woods, thought to be the best defensive back in the Big 12 prior to the start of the season, announced on Instagram he will be transferring from the WVU program.
Woods, who underwent ankle surgery in the middle of the season after being taken from the field in Pittsburgh in Week 1, will be able to transfer without having the 2022 season work against him. He said in his message he would graduate from WVU this semester and would transfer to play his final year of eligibility at another school, reportedly UTSA, which is closer to his home in Dallas.
While the timing of Woods’ announcement seemed to create a perception of rats jumping ship, the news did not seem to surprise head coach Neal Brown, although he clearly, and understandably, didn’t seem to appreciate having to hear it just an hour before a game.
“I heard he put something on social media,” Brown said after the game. “I’ve seen him like twice in two weeks. I try to protect these guys but he shut it down; he wanted to get out.”
The question now is, who else wants to get out and will Neal Brown be leading the pack? Or, rather, how long will it be until Neal Brown is told to get out?
For a tenure that began with such promise for the young coach who came to Morgantown from Troy State to have created and been caught in the times it finds itself in is unfortunate.
This will mark the Mountaineers’ third losing season in four years, though it seems the program and Brown could never gain a foothold to really get started coming out of the times of COVID, which have been compounded by the off-the-chart changes to college football itself – name, image and likeness (NIL) and the transfer portal, which the Mountaineers have seen work against them.
All of which have been further compounded by the extension Brown received from WVU and former athletic director Shane Lyons, who agreed to resign early last week, and the buyout Lyons has received from the university, reportedly $2.1 million and $312,000 for incentives he had earned this year.
Brown’s extension, however, is close to $17 million thanks to the top-heavy buyout given to him by Lyons. Is that a number West Virginia wants to pay a man not to coach at its university? That remains to be seen until the new permanent athletic director is hired and has a chance to evaluate not only Brown, but all of his inherited head coaches.
Rob Alsop is serving as interim athletic director while the permanent A.D. is expected to be in place in approximately two months.
In the meantime, Brown will best prepare his team for Saturday’s finale at Oklahoma State. Then he hits the recruiting trail as a lame-duck coach with a contract that pays him through 2026, which seems totally symbolic of the weird circumstances West Virginia has created for itself.
In fact, there has been quite a bit of symbolism for WVU athletics lately – poor job performance by some of its big-four coaches, athletes transferring out, an ousted athletic director with a buyout, a beleaguered head football coach with a contract extension, poor attendance for its chief money maker and losing seasons.
Then, just as there appears to be a glimmer of hope, the air is let out with an ill-timed transfer announcement and in a matter of a couple of hours, it all feels completely flat.
WVU could really use one helluva good basketball season.
Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT