West Virginia has agreed to separate with athletic director Shane Lyons, who has been at the school since 2015.
A combination of budget issues and the school’s struggling football program led to a change in direction. The school has not decided on coach Neal Brown’s future, sources told ESPN.
Lyons’ departure highlights Brown’s uncertain status as he is 21-24 in four seasons and one loss from clinching the program’s third losing record in his four years.
Brown toppled Oklahoma to snap WVU’s nine-game losing streak to the Sooners, but at 4-6 the Mountaineers remain a long shot to reach a bowl game.
The school announced that Lyons has been replaced on an interim basis by Rob Alsop, its vice president for strategic initiatives. The placement of someone from university president Gordon Gee’s executive staff indicates how distinctly the school wants to change directions.
The school said Gee plans to hire a new athletic director soon. The hire is expected to come quickly if the school does make a change at football coach. It has become a common trend in recent years to expedite a search and pair the new AD with a new coach they help choose.
Brown’s buyout if dismissed after the regular season — expected to be nearly $17 million — looms over the departure of Lyons. Although there is offset language in the contract that could lessen that amount for WVU, there has been aggressive second-guessing of the school giving Brown an extension in April 2021, when he 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, so someone with a strong business background might be coveted in the search for WVU’s athletic director.
Lyons is a well-respected administrator who came to West Virginia from Alabama, where he had served as deputy athletic director from 2011 to 2015. Lyons’ career includes multiple prestigious appointments, as he has chaired the Big 12 athletic directors group and served on the NCAA Division I Council and its football oversight committee. He’s also a part of the NCAA transformation committee.
Alsop, the interim AD, comes from a political background. He earned undergraduate and law school degrees from West Virginia. He has worked in various roles for Earl Ray Tomblin and Joe Manchin in their previous terms as state governor.