West Virginia fires AD Shane Lyons as football team falters

Ben Queen-USA TODAY Sports

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia announced the firing of athletic director Shane Lyons on Monday, a move that comes amid the worst stretch for the football team in more than four decades.

President Gordon Gee said there were no immediate plans to make changes under coach Neal Brown.

Lyons is gone after nearly eight years. Gee said in a statement that Rob Alsop, WVU’s vice president for strategic initiatives, has been named interim athletic director while a search is ongoing for Lyons’ replacement.

Brown has a 21-24 record in his fourth season, including 4-6 this year. It’s the worst stretch since the football team went 17-27 under Frank Cignetti from 1976-79.

In September, after West Virginia started the football season 0-2 and fans turned up their criticism of Brown, Lyons said he would take a wait-and-see approach for the remainder of the season.

Fans also had criticized Lyons’ move to give Brown a contract extension following a 6-4 record in 2020, his only winning season.

“We are supporting coach Neal Brown and our team as we complete our season over the next few weeks,” Gee said in a statement. “We are aware there are some deficiencies, but we have not given up on the coach and the team, and they have not given up on each other.

“The evaluation of the football program will be the first task of our new athletic director and no changes will be made until that review has been completed.”

Lyons was hired in January 2015 to succeed Oliver Luck. He previously served as deputy athletic director at Alabama and as associate commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Lyons is a Parkersburg native who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in sport management at West Virginia. When Lyons was hired, Alabama football coach Nick Saban, another West Virginia native, said that Lyons “understands that passion and what the Mountaineers represent.”

But with the fan base in an uproar over the football program, patience in the administration waned.

“I deeply appreciate Shane’s leadership over the past eight years and I wish him well,” Gee said. “But with the ever-changing landscape of intercollegiate athletics, I believe this is an opportunity to bring a fresh perspective to our program.”

The football team under Brown has yet to be ranked in the AP Top 25 poll and has failed to finish higher than fifth in the Big 12.

“I know there’ll be some speculation that this is the first shoe of two shoes to drop,” Alsop said at a news conference later Monday. “But I just want to disavow that. This is an independent decision.”

He said the football players “have not given up on each other or on this season, and they have not given up on their coaches, and neither have we.”

Football isn’t the only sport undergoing tough times at West Virginia. The men’s basketball team finished last in the Big 12 a year ago. The women’s basketball team finished 15-15 and coach Mike Carey retired after 21 seasons. A few weeks later Lyons hired South Dakota women’s coach Dawn Plitzuweit.

Alsop said he was not a candidate for the permanent athletic director’s position.

“The past few years of college athletics have seen a lot of change,” Alsop said. “We’ve seen from the portal to name, image and likeness, to another round of conference realignment. President Gee in thinking about this decided that with this ever-changing landscape that it will be a good opportunity to find a fresh perspective for the program.”

Missouri linebacker Chad Bailey suspended after arrest

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COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri linebacker Chad Bailey was suspended from the team after he was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, the team said.

The 23-year-old, who was a team captain last season, was booked at about 2:45 a.m. and released after posting $500 bond, according to online records from the Boone County Sheriff’s Office.

“We are aware of the situation involving Chad Bailey,” Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said in a statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He’s been suspended according to Department of Athletics policy. We have high expectations for all of our student-athletes, on and off the field, and we will follow all departmental and campus policies.”

Bailey was Mizzou’s third-leading tackler with 57 stops last season. He started all 11 games he played, missing two with an injury. He’ll be a sixth-year senior this fall after opting to return for his final year of eligibility, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The Missouri student-athlete handbook says any athlete who is arrested must serve a minimum one-week suspension.

Bailey was pulled over at about 1 a.m. not far from the Columbia campus for an expired license plate and lane violation, a police statement said. Bailey told the officer he had consumed alcohol and then performed poorly on a field sobriety test, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Nebraska’s leading rusher Anthony Grant suspended indefinitely

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LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska opened spring practice with running back Anthony Grant suspended indefinitely to work on academics and other issues, first-year coach Matt Rhule announced.

Grant led the team in rushing with 915 yards and six touchdowns last season. He also caught 18 passes for 104 yards.

“Working on academics and general things. Nothing bad other than just our standards as a program,” Rhule said. “That will be day by day. Good kid. Just have to get him going in the right direction.”

Rhule said kick returner and reserve receiver Tommi Hill also is suspended. He did not specify a reason.

Backup tight ends Chris Hickman and James Carnie and reserve cornerback Tyreke Johnson left the team.