West Virginia has agreed to separate with athletic director Shane Lyons, sources told ESPN. Lyons has been West Virginia’s athletic director since 2015, but a combination of budget issues and the school’s struggling football program led to a change in direction. The school has not made a decision on coach Neal Brown’s future, sources told ESPN.
Lyons’ departure highlights the Brown’s uncertain status as he’s 21-24 in four seasons and one loss away from clinching the program’s third losing season in his four years.
Brown did topple Oklahoma to snap WVU’s nine-game losing streak to the Sooners, but at 4-6 the Mountaineers remain a longshot to reach a bowl game.
Lyons is expected to be replaced on an interim basis by Rob Alsop, who is the school’s Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, sources told ESPN. The placement of someone from President Gordon Gee’s executive staff is an indicator of how distinctly the school wants to change directions.
The school is expected to immediately begin an athletic director search, with the hired expected to come quickly if the school does make a change in football coach. It has become a common trend in recent years to expedite a search and let them be paired with a new coach that they help choose.
Brown’s buyout if dismissed after the regular season – expected to be nearly $17 million – looms over the departure of Lyons. While there’s off-set in the contract that could lessen that amount for WVU, there’s been aggressive second-guessing for WVU giving Brown an extension in April of 2021 when Brown had a record of 11-11. That pushed his deal through 2026 and guaranteed a large portion of the contract.
If WVU moves on from Brown in this cycle, it will be a significant financial strain on the athletic department. One of the criticisms of Lyons is that he wasn’t creative and aggressive enough in finding new revenue streams, as someone with a strong business background may be coveted in the search for WVU’s next athletic director.
Lyons is a well-respected administrator who came to West Virginia from Alabama, where he’d served as deputy athletic director from 2011-2015. Lyons’s career includes multiple prestigious appointments, as he has chaired the Big 12 athletic directors, served on the NCAA Division I Council and the NCAA Football Oversight Committee. He’s also a part of the current roster on the NCAA Transformation Committee.
Also, the interim, comes from a political background. He’s a West Virginia graduate, both undergraduate and law school. He’s worked in various roles for Earl Ray Tomblin and Joe Manchin when they served as governor.