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Sources confirm some preliminary contact between UK and agent for Texas Tech offensive coordinator Neal Brown

Neal Brown. (photo submitted)

Neal Brown. (photo submitted)


Could Neal Brown be coaching at the University of Kentucky next season?

With Kentucky looking for a new football coach — and likely an entire new staff — speculation is running rampant on who UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart might target to be the next coach. Brown, 32, is having his name mentioned because of the amazing success he’s had as offensive coordinator at Troy and now at Texas Tech for the last three years. He’s been called one of the “bright young minds in college football” and just to have his name even being mentioned as a possible head coaching candidate at a Southeastern Conference school is remarkable.

Brown, a Nelson County native, is one of the better all-around athletes ever to play at Boyle County. He spent three years as a walk-on receiver at Kentucky under coach Hal Mumme and offensive minds Tony Franklin, Mike Leach and Chris Hatcher. He played  in the Outback and Music City bowls and was also a member of the Southeastern Conference’s all-academic team all three seasons before transferring to Massachusetts to finish his playing career and had 58 catches for 721 yards and four touchdowns.

Brown paid his coaching dues as he started at UMass coaching the offensive line and tight ends before going to Sacred Heart to coach receivers and quarterbacks. His next move was to Delaware as receivers coach before he left to join Franklin, the offensive coordinator, at Troy and coach receivers. When Franklin became offensive coordinator at Auburn, Brown took over at Troy.

During his tenure at Troy, the Trojans won four consecutive conference titles and earned three bowl invitations. Despite being the youngest offensive coordinator in the FBS, Brown in 2009 had Troy ranked third nationally in total offense (485.6 yards per game), fourth in passing (336.5 yards per game) and 16th in scoring (33.69 points per game). Troy won two outright conference championships and played in two bowl games with Brown as offensive coordinator.

When Tommy Tuberville got the Texas Tech job in 2010 after Leach was fired, he brought in Brown — who was only 29 then — to run the offense and the Red Raiders have put up big numbers annually. His 2010 team finished fourth in the conference in total offense (460.2 yards per game) and fourth in scoring (33.1 points). Brown inherited a team that finished last in the league in rushing offense in 2009 (84.0 yards per game) and increased that total by an average of 57 yards to show that he could do more than coach a pass-happy offense. The 2010 Red Raiders ranked 15th in the country in total offense and sixth in passing offense.

Last year Texas Tech ranked 13th nationally in total offense at 470.58 yards per game and 22nd in scoring at 33.83 points per game. Quarterback Seth Doege was a semifinalist for the Davey O’Brien Award and led the nation in completions with 33.17 per game. The Red Raiders also scored a stunning 41-38 upset at No. 3 Oklahoma. This season Tech is averaging 354.7 yards per game passing and 499.6 yards overall along with 38.4 points per game. The Red Raiders are 6-3 after falling to Kansas State and Texas the last two games and ranked 25th in this week’s Associated Press poll.

Brown wisely is not talking about his future. He’s correctly worried about getting wins over Kansas, Oklahoma State and Baylor to end the season.

However, both Brown and Tuberville know their names are being mentioned in connection with the UK coaching search. Brown, who was considered for the head coaching job at Massachusetts last year, could find himself on Kentucky’s list by himself or in connection with his head coach.

Tuberville could also be a candidate at Arkansas, a job that likely would be more attractive to him because he’s from Arkansas and likely there will be a much larger salary and commitment to football than what he will find at Kentucky.

But sources have confirmed there has been some “preliminary contact” between UK and Brown’s agent, a Birmingham-based attorney. Remember, new UK president Eli Capilouto came to Lexington from Birmingham and may well know Brown’s agent. Could that help Brown? Maybe, maybe not. But coaching advancement is often about knowing the right people at the right time.

Sources are indicating that Barnhart would like to name a new coach not long after UK ends the season Nov. 24 at Tennessee. The UK basketball team doesn’t play until Nov. 29 after a Nov. 23 game, so that would give Barnhart a perfect spot to announce the coach and let all the focus be on the new hire.

Look for Brown’s agent to have a conversation with UK officials this week to gauge possible interest on each end. Remember Brown now makes more than UK offensive coordinator Randy Sanders just like Tuberville makes more than Phillips. Texas Tech also is positioned better to win more games annually than Kentucky.

Still, no matter what happens, just being mentioned as a possible coaching candidate and being contacted by UK is the next logical step in Brown’s progression to being a Division I head coach. It’s going to happen. Maybe not at Kentucky — bold moves are not what this UK administration is known for when it comes to football — but eventually some school is going to nab Brown and be very happy that it did.

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  1. Rich Madky

    I think he’s too young to be the HC, Larry. OC, definitely, but not the HC.

    1. UKFAN197TONE

      All great coaches start young and from somewhere. Chip Kelly from Oregon started coaching at 27 or 28, he’s done pretty good. He’s just one example.


    I smell a staff coming together-I’d say its for the OC position. Hopefully under Koetter, Dykes, Tuberville or Riley.

  3. Dewayne

    I just soon have Fulmer as him. His offense is good till they play Oklahoma or K st and then you get shut out. I’m sorry but not the right choice. You may go back to beating the bottom feeders but I doubt it because they have coaches now and we are sorta the bottom feeders. Just look at Texas Tech when they play anybody that’s got defense and look at the offense. There is not a ton of defense in the big 12 this year and you gonna get it every week in the SEC. And I’m not saying Fulmer is a good choice either

  4. Tom

    If Neal could bring two solid coordinators, I wouldn’t rule him out because of his age. Is he a salesman, teacher, recruiter, and can he delegate to others/handle the fan & media pressures despite never being a HC? I’m sure some other serious candidates will be contacted rather than the laundry lists we keep seeing.

  5. Jim

    I will support and root for whomever is hired and give them three years to prove they are going in the right direction. That being said, I would think that UK and Mitch would swing for the fences, before settling on an OC, instead of a guy with HC experience.

  6. bill

    If he can sell hisself to UK then I think he can sell his self to recruits. He could open the doors for UK to recruit Texas and hopefully have someone who can hold UK connection from Georgia and South Carolina. I think if they build an exciting Offence the defensive players will come.

  7. Wes Freeland

    UK needs to hire a Head Coach and not a coordinator! I am sure all these coordinators UK is speaking with are good but they are not proven head coaches. For example, Notre Dame hired a coordinator in Charlie Wise and the outcome was not so good. Then Notre Dame hired a Head Coach in Brian Kelley and we are seeing how that is working out as we speak. For UK to be relavent in the world of SEC football, they have to hire a Head Coach!

  8. shinny

    Not a bad “swing for the fence” We could even turn on the air raid sirens again! He has been under some good teachers for sure and more important he may not look to move again after being successful at UK. We must remember we are not calling from Aub,Ark,or even Tenn.

  9. Jason

    I have been watching ky football since 1979 Iam tired of people saying you can’t win here at ky I say the altic dr an the bord needs to step up an put the money an the resource in football just like BB give the next coach everything he needs pay the couch to win an grad his players

  10. JAC

    Look, i was best friends with Neal growing up…the absolute last thing I want to see him do is fail in a system that seems to NOT support itself. Neal has done a remarkable job coming up, and I think he could very well be successful…but maybe not at UK. And I hate saying that, but I think until the entire Administration, Trustee’s, Athletic Dept. put forth the necessary commitment to football, it’s just not going to get much higher than 6-6 every year. And it’s even harder to do that with UL having Strong and being as good as they are.

    Neal’s style is the absolute best chance UK has to be successful, but as we’ve all seen in the NC games…Oregon couldn’t do much against a SEC defense with weeks of preparation. Don’t you think it will be extremely difficult to do on a weekly basis????

    Also keep this in mind….UK could pull in a top 30 recruiting class, and still be LAST in the SEC recruiting race & standings. I just don’t think folks realize what level of football the SEC is.

    1. larryvaught

      Very fair comments JAC. Agree with all. Neal is rising young mind, may need more experience. believe his offense can work but also nothing wrong with viewing his lack of head coaching experience as a negative. And again, conversations could be possibly about offensive coordinator or just seeing what coaches he may or may not be comfortable with. Lot of talks will go on with lot of folks in next few weeks

      1. lee ann herring-olvedo

        I think his fresh and young mind could really bring a new light to a team that is filled with alot of youth and help rebuild the program and start fresh. If we don’t look to him as a HC. I agree Larry he would be a good OC. What we need is a new overhaul with fresh,out of the box minds that will really push the boundaries with this youth! After all we were the team with the most freshman playing so why not use that to our advantage rather than against!

  11. Brian

    UK has had this type of contact with probably 10 potential coaches at this point, if not more. No story here.

    1. Love SEC F-Ball

      It is a story – Each contact of a potential coach is a story!
      Even more interesting because Neal played at BCHS & U.K.
      And many of us have followed his progress & success.

  12. Jason

    Hey barnheartd if you don’t get a coach an you got a chance to put ky football on the map you need to pay 2.5 million for 5 years his job will be to win if you go get someone that they really don’t want to win you need to be fired get a football coach like coach cal it’s in your hands

  13. Tom

    To me Tuberfill would be the smart choice for HC with Neal Brown as OC. Tuberfill has more experience, plus being at Auburn and Texas Tech he has connections in the south and Should do well recruiting both areas. We need to remember it doesn’t matter who new coach is, he will not be successful without a TOTAL commitment from the UK administration

  14. Jim

    Wow! Maybe Mitch should seek the advice of a search committee, asap, before he drags the program down any further!

  15. shawn

    If this is true then UK football is in big time trouble!

    1. Love SEC F-Ball

      I thought it already was.

  16. cdawg

    Rich Madky – Tell that to Mike Tomlin!

  17. grant

    he certainly has some experience for such a young fella. not as a head coach though. i am not sure how i feel about this if it happens. i want so bad for uk to take the “next step”- schnellenberger . honsetly i was hoping for a proven recruiter and coach, but as larry again pointed out unfortuantely, in the case of tuberville and probably other coaches they are going to go where the salary is at, and more committment to football than @ kentucky. what a freakin shame.

  18. bryan mc

    Gotta start some where if this the logical choice then so be. Where not going get a caliber coach to come to kentucky that’s in the wrong league and a basketball school.

    1. Jim

      I disagree with your opinion. Money talks. You can’t get a Caddillac coach by offerring a chevy price. If UK goes cheap, they will get what they paid for, a “what might have been” coach who will be fired in the next three to four years. If they decide to pay the new coach in the top ten in salary, they can build a winning program and get a top coach. You have to pay to play the coach hiring game. Simple as that.

  19. Mike

    If you guys are too blind to realize what a great offensive mind Brown is then don’t bother wasting space here. Fulmer? Really?

    1. Ira

      Its not being blind to his offensive mind abilities at all. What some of are concerned about and rightly so in my opinion is his Head coaching position none. Joker had all the assistant postions you could ask for in a coach but when it came to be a Head Coach, you don’t want your first job being a Head Coach in the SEC and at Kentucky. The learning curve is way to steep. Look at the price it cost Joker and UK football. 1st season 6-7 and that was with a pretty talented team Hartline, Cobb, Locke among others, 2nd season 5-7, 3rd season hopefully 2-8 and can anyone actually think this team will beat UT twice in a row the way this schizophenic team plays?

      No what the argument is for, is someone like Petrino, a prove commodity, yes he has had issues, but the man can coach. Proven winner. Sonny Dykes, seems to be a winner, has ties to UK but how much can he recruit in the SEC.

      Tuberville, proved he can win in the SEC, but Arkansas will be looking for a new coach at the end of the season, and Tuberville is from Arkansas. That would fit perfectly for Tuberville.

      There is talk or has been talk about Mike Gundy to Auburn. If so and he takes that job that still leave Petrino open to UT. Believe me, UT wants to win. They would take Petrino in a heart beat.

      Fulmer I don’t want. He bleeds orange all the way. I don’t care how his last job ended. I just can’t see him putting everything he would have to, in to making UK a serious contender for the SEC East over his beloved Vols.

      Me I’d love to have Gary Patterson from TCU. But I don’t think we are going to pry him from TCU. He plays a tough defense, coaches hard, recruits well for a team that has been in the Mtn West. What’s not to like

  20. Deeeefense

    Would love to see Neal come back home to Kentucky as an OC but I would be a bit cautions about handing the reigns of an SEC football team over to someone who has never been a head coach at any level and only a coordinator at a BCS team for a short period of time.

    I know most people would bulk at the CIW thing but if they bring in an older head coach, the Kentucky OC job could be a nice grooming situation for Neal Brown with upward mobility potential.

    1. UKFAN197TONE

      Uhhhhh. Did you not notice this go around with that idea?

  21. Love SEC F-Ball

    Are we buying a Head Coach or just trying to sell the position as it is now?
    The current program will not sell itself.
    It will be a tough sell until we prove that we have the committment from the entire administration. (As many of you have pointed out).

  22. Cam Jacobs says

    I can see Brown as part of a package but if we are already looking to fill out the coaching staff then is their someone we already like dictating these moves?

  23. Cam Jacobs says

    Any sources confirm UK has made contact with Petrino? Fulmer? Dykes?

    1. larryvaught

      Talked to contact with Petrino ties today who says there has been no interaction with Kentucky

      1. Love SEC F-Ball

        Send a girls volleyball player.

        1. larryvaught

          Volleyball would get it done

  24. grant

    I would be interested to hear what the A.D. ‘s goals are for UK’s football program BEFORE he hires someone. Its easy to say yeah we want to win at Uk after he throws a new coach up at the podium. I would bet a bag of doughnuts that Mitch would never publicly come out and say what his goals are before the next hire– that way he does not have to say we want to compete with Alabama, Lsu , Florida , and Georgia and then go and hire a no namer. If he comes out publicly with his intentions for this program and they are grandious then he cannot hire an offensive coordinator. He would have to hire big, and he wants to avoid that i am guesing, and not paint himself in to a corner. Hearing Mitch’s goals would tell us alot, are we shooting for the magical 6 win plateau, in which he is going to hire on the cheap , or are we going to shoot for more, in which he is going to have to unload some real head coach money and stop playing around.
    ” If you build- it they will come”

  25. uktim

    If Uk hires brown i am done with uk football. Brown has no experience as a head coach.Hiring him as an asst coach i am fine with it. Uk need a guy who at least has some head coaching experience.

  26. Bob

    It’s so wrong for people to state UK can’t be an power house in the SEC this is simply false . The SEC is the strongest confernce in the nation thats true . However look at South Carolina were it was and where it’s at . Kentucky needs an NFL coach whom is sucessful , whom can prepair kids for the NFL , therefore will be able to recurit agaisnt the top teams in the SEC . Ha Mitch it worked in Kentucky’s basketball program . Stop looking at people whom might be and hire an head coach whom will be . Also let his coach hire his own staff . Ticket prices may need to go up to pay for this person however it’s the price of sucess.

  27. grant

    i agree bob. when i think of south car. i never would have dreamed that they would be where they are at in football, they bit the bullet and paid a great coach.

  28. Jayson Blinn

    First I would like to say they need to not think of aquiring a coach at a low cost. That won’t get it done. I as a fan am not as stupid as you think Mitch Barnhart. I want someone who can do good for our school. Picking up the western ky coach could mean a few good years if he came in and done good, and departure with good status and his ties to the harbaughs with an NFL team ready to give him a chance. No not this choice. My football and crystall ball says we need to find someone who would like to make a program that has never been established as a football program, and not jump ship after he has proven himself for more. Calipari for a coaches example. That is a guy who appreciates the fan base in Ky. and gets us. He would be given the key to every city in Kentucky if he wanted. We are proud people here. The reason nobody gets us is because they would have to be born here to get it. That also brings my attention to ( Why isn’t more recruiting being done in KY like what spurrier is doing in south carolia ) The one advantage to in state players is the already proudly beating ky heart in our chest. Which makes for a weapon in becoming a ” hall of fame r type of player ” that is what if your from outside this state people don’t get. Like I said you have to be from here.

    1. Brock

      I didn’t know Calipari was born in Kentucky.

  29. Keith

    UK could do worse than Brown, but as many have stated, “Where is the experience?” Bring him along with Tuberville and you’ve got a winning combination.
    I don’t want Petrino at UK. Disgusting thought. At what price winning? Calipari’s baggage was a carry on bag compared to Petrino’s.
    Fulmer is not on my list. Too many “ifs”.
    Test Kirby’s (Bama) interest along with Chavis (LSU).
    I don’t want an offensive shootout every Saturday. Score points and play stingy, hard hitting defense. That wins in the SEC.

  30. grant

    Jayson, did you enjoy the championship last year in basketball? Darius Miller was the only native from Kentucky who contributed in the tourney. Does that make that trophy less valuable? Does Cal want every Kentucky player? Nope . You know why? Because there are better players from all over. If Cal just took players from Kentucky we would want him fired in quick order because of the results. Uk needs less boundaries for football recruiting.

  31. RJ

    Brown would be coming in at a disadvantage. #1, as bright as he might be, the UK administration has yet to prove it is serious about football beyond being a money pump, #2 the SEC is a tough place for a youth to cut their teeth, and #3 if you are just looking for KY roots, why not keep Joker Phillips?

    I like Brown expecially because he played for BCHS and UK. I also think he would be crazy to accept the HC position at UK without some ironclad guarentees about administration support for football. I would love to see him here and be successful but it would be a stretch.

  32. Boomerball48

    Hiring Petrino would be hiring a Billy G type! Nothing good could come of it, nothing!

  33. Cam Jacobs

    Larry, uk is short changing itself if it does not talk to bobby p.

    1. larryvaught

      I would think you would have to at least consider Petrino

      1. Boomerball48

        Are we forgetting how he left Louisville and Atlanta? No flipping way should he even be considered! He would do UK the same way!!!!!

  34. Larry Pup

    We would damn sure have a football team if we hired Bobby Petrino. You could count on that. Does the man have some baggage? You bet, but we are not hireing a pastor. I doubt he would come to UK anyway. Given time Petrino would field a team that could take care of Louisville. A bunch that trashed him for leaving that hell hole like he did right or wrong. That leaves my other choice Dykes. A proven and head coach, and with UK ties. Larry Pup

  35. Mike E.

    UK needs to talk to Bobby P. Barnhart has to show the guts, by taking a gamble. I think that the risk is worth the reward. Shoot at the moon, you just might hit it.

  36. UKFAN197TONE

    There sure is a lot of passion and concern here. I LOVE IT! It means that the spirit of the UK FOOTBALL fan has not died.

    I salute each and every fan here. GO BIG BLUE!!!

  37. grant

    i am with larry pup!

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