West Virginia athletic director Shane Lyons has had plenty of time to ponder Dana Holgorsen’s departure for Houston. He’d heard rumblings about it for days leading up to the initial reports, and after the firing of Major Applewhite, it became obvious what would happen next.
So where does West Virginia turn in its search? Here’s a look at the five most logical candidates for the Mountaineers’ job. There will be a push from the fanbase to bring back Rich Rodriguez, but little institutional interest from administrators. That’s why he’s not on the list. (Also, Rodriguez just signed a three-year deal to be Ole Miss’ offensive coordinator.)
1. Luke Fickell, Cincinnati
The Bearcats coach has strong ties to the region from a career anchored in Ohio. He’s also got a strong relationship with Gordon Gee, the WVU president who came from Ohio State. Gee was president during Fickell’s interim stint there. And with Lyons coming from Alabama, a defensive-minded coach fits a winning formula. His 11-2 season at Cincinnati showed his high-end potential as a coach.
2. Neal Brown, Troy
He’s destined to be the coach atop next year’s Hot Coach lists, as he’s won 10 games for three consecutive seasons. It’s a surprise he hasn’t been tabbed already, as Troy pulled seismic upsets of LSU in 2017 and Nebraska in 2018. He’ll be strongly considered here.
3. Jason Candle, Toledo
He won the MAC in 2017 and has consistently produced and called high-ended offenses as both a coordinator and coach. He’s 28-13 as a head coach, and his old boss Matt Campbell’s success in the Big 12 would portend a strong stint at WVU for Candle. Toledo has been in the top 20 in scoring offense all three of Candle’s seasons as head coach, including No. 9 this season. He’s a Pittsburgh native, with strong recruiting ties to the city that’s the closest major metropolitan area to Morgantown.
4. Mike Norvell, Memphis
He’s an intriguing name, as the consistent winning and offensive production despite rampant staff turnover has been impressive. Norvell may be waiting for something bigger, as he makes more than $2.5 million. That’s made him a bit patient about moving, and WVU could end up outside of his geographic comfort zone.
5. Seth Littrell, North Texas
He’s gone 18-9 the past two seasons and brings a familiar Air Raid style, as he’s also from the Mike Leach coaching tree. Littrell has built himself into a coveted candidate, as interest this year from Kansas State, Texas Tech, Kansas and Colorado showed. The issue with him at West Virginia is that he’s a tricky regional fit.
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