In the whirlwind of college football coaching changes, Troy University has already seen its share of the excitement in 2019’s coaching carousel. The Trojans found themselves in the spotlight of national news as internet rumors began to swirl regarding Neal Brown’s departure. Troy rode a rollercoaster of news headlines as the university named a familiar face, Chip Lindsey, as Neal Brown’s successor, just days after Neal’s final goodbye in Trojan Arena. The hire itself laid to rest many of the unanswered questions from the Trojan family as a new coach, a fresh staff and a clear vision became the face of Troy football.
On Jan 9, 2019, Neal Brown was announced as the 35th head football coach of the West Virginia Mountaineers. This announcement came days after Dana Holgorsen, the Mountaineers previous head coach, took the same position at Houston. West Virginia wasted no time looking for a qualified candidate, reaching out to Brown within the week.
“I am excited that Neal Brown and his family have decided to call West Virginia University their next home,” said West Virginia Athletic Director Shane Lyons in an interview with CBS Sports. “When I started this national search, I learned very quickly that he checked all the boxes of what I was looking for in our next football coach.
“I look forward to working together and supporting him and his staff to bring championships to Morgantown.”
On January 5, as Brown was verbally committed and his six-year contract was in the works, he met with Trojan fans at halftime of the men’s basketball game to express his love for Troy and to say his goodbyes. The video, posted on Facebook by Troy University Athletics, tallied over 263,000 views and 2,375 shares in 10 days.
“Man, what a ride,” said Brown as he addressed the Trojan Nation at the halftime break. “Thirty-one wins, three bowl wins, and a conference championship.
“It’s been a great ride. Our students, they completely changed the dynamic of Veterans Memorial Stadium. I really support how this community and this fan base has welcomed my family and I, and I mean that.”
“The wall that we talked about for four years has been rebuilt,” said Brown. “The best days or our football program are still to come.”
Fast forward to Coach Lindsey’s first press conference with the Troy family, and Chancellor Jack Hawkins gave his thoughts on Neal Brown’s new hire.
“Four years ago, we hired a young man by the name of Neal Brown,” said Hawkins.
“Neal Brown re-entered this university, having been here before, with dignity, and I can tell you, having experienced meetings with him in the last few days, he left this place with dignity.”
Following the official report of Brown’s departure, the names of potential successors to Brown’s legacy began to make their way around Troy. ESPN reported Troy took its coaching search to Ole Miss linebacker coach and previous Troy assistant, Joe Sumrall. Louisiana-Lafayette defensive coordinator Ron Roberts and Tulane offensive coordinator Will Hall were also reported to have received interviews.
“This didn’t start five, six days ago,” said Athletic Director Jeremy McClain at Coach Lindsey’s press conference. “This was probably at least three year process… I knew Neal would have some opportunities he probably couldn’t pass up.”
McClain said the coaching search was centered around “. . .finding someone who could take the ball and run with it.”
“We’re in a place we’ve never been,” said McClain. “I told our players, I’ve got zero interest in taking a step backward.”
On January 10, just one day after the official announcement of Neal Brown’s new position in Morgantown, Troy University officially named Chip Lindsey as Brown’s successor. Lindsey, a former offensive coordinator at Auburn, made his first appearance to Trojan fans in a press conference the very next day, opening himself to the media and fans alike.
Lindsey, a familiar face to many Trojan fans, saw action in Veterans Memorial Stadium as the quarterback coach during the 2010 season. Lindsey led the Trojans to their fifth consecutive conference championship in the same year, capping off the season with a New Orleans Bowl victory.
Following his stint at Troy, Lindsey coached several standouts that would go on to play in the NFL. Lindsey’s expertise brought him from Southern Miss to Arizona State before his national championship run on the Plains.
“I think this is a great hire,” said Kerryon Johnson, a former Auburn running back and current Detroit Lions running back in an interview with Troy Athletics. “Troy has built a very good program the past couple of years, and I think it can only go upwards with Coach Lindsey getting the job. He is a players-first coach and is someone you can always give 100 percent effort for.”
As Neal Brown departed for West Virginia, it was confirmed by the Mountaineer football program that Brown took several pieces with him from the Trojan coaching staff. Five Trojan assistants have followed in Neal Brown’s footsteps to build a West Virginia coaching staff with a lot of Trojan flavor. Troy defensive coordinator Vic Koenning took the same position for the Mountaineers after seeing the Trojans top the nation in several defensive statistics through his time at Troy. Under Koenning’s watch, Troy led the nation in red zone percentage in 2017 while finishing fourth nationally in tackles for loss.
Along with Koenning and Brown, Matt Moore takes over as the offensive line coach for West Virginia. West Virginia Athletics later announced that former Troy defensive line coach Jordan Lesley would join as Brown’s staff began to take shape. Sean Reagan, the former Troy co-offensive coordinator, and Al Pouge, the former cornerbacks coach, also joined Brown in Morgantown.
As of January 15, Chip Lindsey had named three of his assistants in his new Trojan staff. Lindsey named Ryan Pugh, the former All-American at Auburn, as his offensive coordinator as well as offensive line coach.
Lindsey then named Brandon Hall, Troy’s 2018 outside linebacker and special teams coach, as the new defensive coordinator in his second season in Troy.
Lindsey also promoted Brian Blackmon to the role of special teams coach, to replace the void left by Hall. Trojan fans are familiar with Blackmon as he served as Troy’s tight end coach last season.
As the Trojan staff begins to take its final shape, Chip Lindsey express his excitement one final time during his initial press conference following his hire.
“I am extremely honored and humbled to be the head football coach at Troy University,” said Head Coach Chip Lindsey. “Our family is beyond excited to come back home to the state of Alabama and to Troy as we continue to build on the foundation that has been laid for this program.
“I have seen firsthand the passion of Trojan Nation and the student-athletes that represent it. I cannot wait to get to work on strengthening our position among the premier Group of Five programs.”