The 2018 college football season is officially in the books, the standoff between Dana Holgorsen and West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons has come to an end, and both Houston and WVU have new head coaches.
Following a loss to Syracuse in the Camping World Bowl, the Mountaineer football program was in limbo after it was reported that Holgorsen didn’t travel back with the team and was flirting with Houston. Five days later, Houston made it official with a savage announcement.
Before we get to the hiring of Neal Brown, I want to take a look back at Holgorsen’s time in Morgantown and the legacy he leaves.
Dana By The Numbers
Record: 61-41 (second most wins in school history)
Big 12 record: 38-32 (seven seasons)
Big East record: 5-2 (one season)
Bowl record: 2-5
24 players drafted (four players drafted in the top 15)
Holgorsen finishes his tenure in Morgantown as the second-winningest coach in school history behind only College Football Hall of Famer Don Nehlen. While many point to Holgorsen's bowl record, it's important to understand the circumstances of those games and the Mountaineers track in bowl games.
In three of Holgorsen's seven bowl games, WVU was without their starting quarterback.
In 2014, an injury to Clint Trickett forced Skyler Howard to make his first career start against Texas A&M. In 2017, Chris Chugunov made his second career start against Utah after Will Grier's season ended early due to injury. And, of course, this year, Jack Allison made his first career start against Syracuse after Will Grier opted to prepare for the NFL draft.
Also of note, no WVU head coach boasts higher than a .500 record in bowl games and the Mountaineers all-time record in bowls is 15-21.
There's no denying that Holgorsen upgraded the talent in Morgantown, and there's no better example of that than looking at the number of players he put in the NFL.
Not only has he had two dozen players drafted, but four of those players were selected in the top 15 picks. In the previous 74 years of WVU football, that only happened six times.
Appreciating Dana's Run
Since it was announced that Holgorsen was taking his talents to Houston, WVU fans have decided to pile on and trash the former Mountaineer head coach.
How quick they forget the night he hung 70 on Dabo Swinney and Clemson in the Orange Bowl. How quickly they forget the successful transition from the Big East to the Big 12. How quickly they forget the decision he made to go for two to beat Texas in Austin. How quickly they forget the double-digit wins over ranked opponents.
Holgorsen inherited the unbelievably tough task of transitioning a WVU program that was not ready from the Big East to the Big 12. It was not ready talent-wise, facilities-wise, or funding-wise. Yet, in seven of his eight years at the helm, he finished in the top half of the league and led the Mountaineers to a bowl game.
Without Holgorsen's familiarity with the Big 12 and perfectly suited air raid offense, it's likely that West Virginia would have floundered after joining the league and found itself trying to climb out of a never-ending hole.
Was Dana Holgorsen perfect? Of course not. He made plenty of mistakes and there were disappointing times. However, there's no denying that Dana Holgorsen elevated the level of WVU football and left the program in better shape than he found it. There's no denying he committed his life to the program in hopes of making our state proud. You can be appreciative of what Dana did and still be excited for the Neal Brown era.
So, on behalf of the state of West Virginia, thank you for everything Dana. There will never be another coach like you in Morgantown.
Let The Neal Brown Era Begin
Coaching searches in Morgantown haven't always gone the smoothest, but Shane Lyons knocked this one out of the park. It's crazy that Brown was preparing for another year at Troy and didn't have a Power Five job, but that was the case, and his availability was to the good fortune of Lyons and West Virginia.
West Virginia, despite being last to come open, may have won this coaching carousel. https://t.co/evuYvxq0yo— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) January 4, 2019
Brown's Record at Troy: 35-16 (31-8 his final three seasons)
Bowl record: 3-0 (wins over Ohio, North Texas, and Buffalo)
Power Five wins: @ LSU, @ Nebraska
Brown will come to West Virginia and instantly instill new energy and culture to the program. One could argue that things had grown a little stale in Morgantown. Holgorsen wasn't a people person, but Brown is and is as genuine as they come. He is high energy and will get out and rub elbows with boosters, fans, and anybody else who is willing to listen.
As Brown stated in his introductory press conference at Troy, he will run a player's first program, and everywhere he has coached, players have loved suiting up for him.
While Mountaineer Nation was very split on Holgorsen, I expect the fan base to rally behind Brown and give him the support the head coach at the flagship university of West Virginia deserves.
Will Neal Brown be the coach that can bring a Big 12 title back to West Virginia? Only time will tell, but the future of West Virginia football is in good hands and Mountaineer fans can thank Dana Holgorsen and Neal Brown for that.