Evaluating Coaching Changes: The Case for WVU’s Potential Move from Neal Brown to Jimbo Fisher
Let me start by saying, I am in no way suggesting that WVU should fire Neal Brown. Quite the contrary; I think WVU should stick with Neal Brown into the 2024-25 season assuming he wins at least one of the last two games on our schedule against Cincinnati at home and Baylor on the road in Waco.
However, if Neal Brown were to lose the last two games this season and finish 6-6, I think it would be time for WVU to consider a change at head coach. West Virginia University’s football program, like any other major college football team, faces constant scrutiny and evaluation by the fans and administration. One of the most critical aspects of a team’s success is its coaching staff, and decisions regarding coaching changes are often met with both excitement and apprehension.
The most popular choice as of today to replace Neal Brown is Jimbo Fisher as seen in the recent WVU Bartstool poll.
In this article, we will explore the reasons why West Virginia University might consider parting ways with Coach Neal Brown in 2024 and hire Jimbo Fisher to lead the Mountaineers.
Jimbo Fisher (John James Fisher Jr.) is one of the most well known coaches in college football. Born on October 9, 1965, in Clarksburg, West Virginia.
From ESPN, “Fisher was born downstream from Monongah via the West Fork River, and grew up on a farm in Glen Falls. His father was known as Big Jim. He was a lot more fun than Big Nick, patriarch of a household of laughter that included his wife, Gloria, and two sons. Jim Jr. became Jimbo because “there were already so many Jims in the family, my aunt said, ‘We gotta call you something else’ and that was Jimbo.” Big Jim hadn’t been able to avoid a hardhat and headlamp. He worked the mines during the overnight shift, returning home just as the sun rose to put in another full day’s work on the Fisher farm, Jimbo bailing hay at his side.
Like the Sabans, Big Jim and Jimbo connected through sports. Jimbo became a three-sport star at Clarksburg’s Liberty High School. Meanwhile, people chattered about Big Jim’s ability to hit a softball into the nearby mountaintops.”
Jimbo played quarterback at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, where he displayed remarkable skill and leadership on the field. After graduating, Fisher embarked on a coaching career that would solidify his reputation as a brilliant strategist and motivator.
One of the pivotal moments in Fisher’s coaching journey was his association with fellow West Virginia native, Nick Saban. Fisher served as Saban’s offensive coordinator at LSU from 2000 to 2004. During this period, the LSU Tigers achieved unbelievable success, winning the BCS National Championship in 2003. Fisher’s offensive coaching ability played a crucial role in the team’s wins, showcasing his ability to shape and guide a major football program.
Following his stint at LSU, Fisher joined Florida State University under Bobby Bowden in 2007 as offensive coordinator. His impact was immediate. Fisher’s offensive strategies helped rejuvenate the Seminoles’ football program, making them a formidable force in college football once again. Jimbo went 83-23 at Florida State.
Jimbo took over as head coach from Bobby Bowden in 2010. The pinnacle of Jimbo Fisher’s coaching career at Florida State came in 2013 when he led the Seminoles to an undefeated season, culminating in a victory over Auburn in the BCS National Championship Game with Jameis Winston at Quarterback.
In 2017, Fisher accepted the head coaching position at Texas A&M University, taking on the challenge of guiding the Aggies in the ultra competitive SEC. His arrival brought heightened expectations, and Fisher embraced the opportunity to build a powerhouse football program at Texas A&M. Under his leadership, he had several number one recruiting classes.
In his first season at A&M (2018), Fisher coached the Aggies to a 9–4 record and a second-place finish in the SEC West, which was the program’s best conference finish since joining the conference in 2012. The season included a 74–72 seven-overtime win over LSU, which was the program’s first victory over the Tigers since 1995. The game saw the most combined points scored (146) in a Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) football game. The Aggies defeated the NC State Wolfpack 52–13 in the 2018 Gator Bowl.
The following season, the Aggies received an invitation to the 2019 Texas Bowl, where they defeated Oklahoma State 24–21.
During the COVID-19-shortened conference-only 2020 season, Fisher led the Aggies to a 9–1 record, which earned the team the No. 4 ranking in the AP Poll, the highest postseason ranking for the Aggies since the 1939 season. Texas A&M finished fifth in the College Football Playoff final poll, becoming the first team out of the field. The team qualified for the Orange Bowl, where they defeated North Carolina 41–27.
Prior to the 2021 season, the Texas A&M Board of Regents voted to extend Fisher’s contract through the 2031 season. Fisher would be paid $9 million annually.
Fisher’s Aggies entered the 2021 season ranked No. 6 in the preseason standings, but lost their starting quarterback to injury after a 3-0 start. They went on to lose to No. 16 Arkansas and unranked Mississippi State. Following the two losses, the Aggies defeated then-No. 1 ranked Alabama at home. With the win, several records were broken. Fisher became the first former assistant coach of Nick Saban to defeat him, shattering Saban’s then-perfect 24–0 record. The Aggies capitalized on the Alabama win with three consecutive SEC victories over Missouri, South Carolina and Auburn before suffering losses to Ole Miss and LSU. Texas A&M opted to not play in a bowl game and finished the 2021 season with an 8–4 record, ranked No. 25 in the final Coaches Poll.
The Aggies would enter the 2022 season with high expectations, ranked #6 in the country. They lost six of their first nine games, including a shocking upset loss to unranked Appalachian State. The team finished with a 5–7 mark, missing a bowl game, but ending the season on a positive note with an upset 38–23 victory over #5 LSU.
Jimbo was 6-4 on the 2023 season before being fired. Texas A&M owes Fisher $76 million for the buyout.
Jimbo’s record as head coach is 128-48 which equates to winning almost 73% of his games. He has a winning bowl record at 8-2. Even in the highly competitive SEC, Jimbo was 45-25 after six seasons. Compare that with Neal Brown who is 28-29 in his 5th season.
Jimbo Fisher had the 10th best recruiting class for 2024 and the no. 1 recruiting class in 2022. Every year, he was putting together one of the best recruiting classes in the country. Recruiting is the lifeblood of any successful college football program. While Neal Brown has shown some success in attracting talent to WVU, Jimbo Fisher’s established reputation as a recruiter could take the Mountaineers to the next level. Fisher’s ability to connect with top high school prospects and convince them to join his programs has been a consistent factor in his coaching success.
While advocating for a coaching change is very a sensitive matter, evaluating the potential move from Neal Brown to Jimbo Fisher requires a thorough examination of the program’s current state and future aspirations. Neal Brown has been a class act and represented West Virginia very well publicly. He is a family man who shares our culture and values. The problem for a large portion of the fan base, he just isn’t winning enough. Given WVU’s history over the past forty years, it is a valid argument. Fisher’s proven record, offensive innovation, and recruiting prowess and being a native of West Virginia, make him a compelling candidate for WVU should AD Wren Baker decide it’s time to move on in this season or the next. We will wait and see but until then, I will continue to throw my full support behind Neal Brown and pray for success for the coach and the team.