The University of Houston is expected to officially announce Dana Holgorsen as their new head football coach within the next 24 hours. But as everyone knows Shane Lyons has wasted no time searching for Holgorsen’s replacement. That search has reported been narrowed down to two names, Luke Fickell from Cincinnati and Neal Brown from Troy.
Fickell has connections to WVU’s Gordon Gee that go back to Ohio State. Fickell took over as interim head coach when Jim Tressel left in 2011. Fickell took over at Cincinnati in 2017 where he went 4-8 in his first season. However, Fickell quickly turned the program around finishing the 2018 season at 11-2 with signature wins over UCLA and Virginia Tech.
Fickell is a defensive mind dating back to his playing days at Ohio State. He implements a 4-3 defensive concept which is a stark difference from the 3-3-5 odd stack Tony Gibson has run at WVU. His offensive scheme is also different in the second year coach tends more toward a power running game. Brown’s offense averaged 240 yards per game on the ground and just under 219 yards through the air. The Bearcats ran the ball at almost a 2-to-1 average versus the pass.
Fickell signed a 6 year deal with Cincinnati in 2017 worth a total of $13.4 million which comes out to $2.23 million per year. Fickell’s current buyout at Cincinnati if he were to leave currently sits at $2.75 million.
Brown has been considered the leader in the clubhouse from the beginning. One of the hottest non-P5 coaches in the nation Brown has tuned around the Troy program leading the Trojans to three straight 10+ win seasons including three straight bowl wins.
Brown would bring a more familiar style to WVU running the air raid offense, something he managed with success as the offensive coordinator at Texas Tech from 2010-2012. Brown would bring a more balanced offense to WVU as opposed to Fickell although he also chose to run first as well. Troy finished the 2018 season averaging 215 yards per game through the air and 174 on the ground.
Brown made $810,000 this past season at Troy with a contract that lasts through 2021. There are $490,00 worth of incentives built into his contract including an $80,000 bonus we received for the Trojans 10 win season in 2018. Brown’s contract buyout is reportedly $2.9 million.
WVUWire has been told that barring any unforeseen last minute inclusions the choice is between Fickell and Brown.
WUWire has also learned that both are willing to accept the position given the right circumstances. However, with the rumored price tag Lyons is putting on the position ($2.5-$3 million per year) is one some feel Brown may be being advised to hold out on for a bigger payday in the future given he is such a hot commodity right now.
Regardless, the search is expected to conclude in short order as WVU is waiting for Houston to make Holgorsen’s hiring official. Like every other coaching search this past season, expect Lyons to make a quick announcement to allow the new staff time to assemble and get on the recruiting trail.
Featured photo courtesy WVMetroNews