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Liberty Bowl Brown

West Virginia coach Neal Brown hoists the the Liberty Bowl trophy with his players after a 24-21 win over Army in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31 in Memphis, Tenn.

Neal Brown has an intriguing viewpoint of life as it pertains to football.

West Virginia University’s head football coach believes they are inherently intertwined, and should be. That is why Brown fervently believes in melding the two.

It also explains his stance on bowl games. Brown believes they are a reward and should be treated as such. Does he still coach his team up hard for a bowl game? Of course. But Brown also makes sure they have some fun. The best of both worlds is the idea.

“Bowl games are different than regular football games to me,” said Brown. “I think you have to treat them as a reward, whether that’s gifts or experiences or whatever. But you want them to be memorable.”

That’s where the problem surfaced for the Mountaineers’ Liberty Bowl matchup with Army. How is it possible to make a bowl game memorable in the midst of a COVID-19 pandemic? It seems darned near impossible.

For starters, bowl games are always about destinations. The teams travel to warm-weather locations, hopefully with a beach nearby, and treat the game as a working vacation. That’s the norm.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything normal about the circumstances surrounding the 2020-21 bowl season. As a result, Brown needed to think outside the box. So he did.

“Most of the time it involves an extended stay at a destination,” said Brown. “That’s not the case this time, so we wanted to create our own kind of experiences.”

The next thing the Mountaineers knew they were riding in buses on Interstate 68 East traveling to The Wisp ski resort, located about an hour away in McHenry, Maryland, near Deep Creek Lake.

“We went to The Wisp and it was fun,” said Brown with a grin. “I’d never done that [tubing]. I can tell you who didn’t go the fastest. If you all saw the video, it was me. I went about as slow as you can go. That’s about my speed on that kind of stuff. But our guys had a blast.”

Which, of course, was the entire idea.

“You want to create memories,” said Brown, “you know what I mean? This was the last game of the 2020 season, last game that this group of staff and players are going to be together, and I think you need to create some memories outside the game as part of this experience.”

Indeed. Brown couldn’t be more correct. And that’s what I like about him. Despite being a college head football coach, Brown doesn’t forget to be a person.

That can’t be said for all football coaches. But that’s the case with Brown.

Even though he took the Mountaineers to The Wisp, Brown wasn’t trying to snow anybody.