New Coaches Changing Big 12 Dynamic

Neal Brown
West Virginia head coach Neal Brown makes a point during the Gold-Blue game

New Coaches Changing Big 12 Dynamic

Big 12 football coaching staffs have gone through massive overhauls recently. Over the last two years, seven new coaches have come aboard at league schools. Only TCU’s Gary Patterson, Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy and Iowa State’s Matt Campbell have been in head coaching positions in the league for more than two seasons.

“That new blood and new energy will ramp competition up,” said Texas coach Tom Herman, who has two years in with the Longhorns.

WVU head coach Neal Brown watches over practice

This year, West Virginia’s Neal Brown, along with Kansas State’s Chris Klieman, Kansas’ Les Miles and Texas Tech’s Matt Wells, will get their first shots at making an impact in the league. (This is Miles’ second go-round in the Big 12, as he was the head man at Oklahoma State from 2001-04.)

Miles, the lone Power Five veteran head coach in the group, noted that teaching the game and working with the players are among the reasons he returned.

“It’s a little more fun than fishing. A little more fun than golf. Not as much fun as eating a lot.”

For Klieman, it was something of a continuation of the fundamentals that previous head coach Bill Snyder based the program on.

“We’re still light years away from being ready to play a game, but I noticed how we want them to practice and the culture of how we’re practicing over the last four and five practices, the guys were really buying in.”

* * * * * *

One of the topics of discussion for several coaches are the more liberal transfer policies, along with the newly established transfer portal.

“I don’t think it is something that has been thought through,” said Gundy, clearly not a proponent of the more open approach to graduate transfers and waivers being granted for the slightest of reasons. “It gives us no way to manage our rosters.”

Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley wasn’t quite so blunt, but did note that coaches can be blindsided with the new portal process.

“The part about it I still have a hard time with is that you don’t have to come tell your coach if you’re going to go in it,” Riley said. “Any job in the world, if you’re going to leave or go take another job, it’s the right thing to go tell the people that you work for.”

* * * * * *

Brown was asked about his views on gambling in the college game, and his answer was typical for the coach who addresses every part of the game he can control, but doesn’t worry about what he can’t.

“Any time there’s huge financial implications, it makes sense if the money is being spent in the right way. There’s probably illegal sports gambling going on. My thought about it is to bring what is dark into the day,” he said, adding that gambling is part of American society now. “We try to educate the players, we show them films and bring in speakers, and talk to them several times a year.”

Likewise, he doesn’t waste time worrying about West Virginia’s status as the eastern outpost of the Big 12.

“We can’t pick campus up and move it so it doesn’t do any good to complaining about it,” he said pragmatically, preferring to highlight an advantage he sees.

“We don’t recruit against many of our conference foes,” Brown detailed. “Philadelphia, (Delaware, Maryland, Virginia), Pittsburgh, Columbus, even in New Jersey, we can offer the Big 12 as a unique league. There’s some things that define it from the SEC and ACC. There can be some advantages to it.”

* * * * * *

Brown reiterated that offensive lineman Michael Brown was WVU’s most improved player on offense, while Josh Chandler took that title on defense.

“Mike made tremendous improvement this spring. He only played in a couple of games last year, and never played high school football. He made big strides throughout our spring practice. Josh Chandler was a backup last year and saw some action on special teams, but this spring he was probably our most productive player on defense.”

Brown noted that redshirt freshman offensive lineman Briason Mays was the first backup along the offensive line, but that the search will continue for more. Mays played center for much of the spring but also swung out side to fill an injury gap during the spring game.

“We need to add one or two more bodies.”

* * * * * *

Brown also discussed the team’s accountability program, which is a winter- and spring-long competition that pits 10-man squads for points in everything from academics to community service to nutrition to strength and conditioning. Each group has a captain and a vice-captain, which Brown views as another way of helping develop leadership.

“We have our last competition this week before we move into finals,” Brown said. “We’ll have a champion when they come back for the summer.”

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