Written by John Antonik
Robert N. "Red" Brown was instrumental in the construction of the WVU Coliseum and many other improvements to West Virginia's intercollegiate athletic program during his 22-year association with the university.
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Beginning his career as a three-sport letterman at Elkins High School in 1923, Brown went on to play for Cam Henderson's Davis & Elkins Scarlet Hurricanes from 1926-30. He earned all-West Virginia honors as a forward and was also team captain in 1930 while also making the all-time WVIAC tennis team.
For the next 15 years, Brown coached at Tygarts Valley and Elkins high school where he won 73 percent of his games in football, basketball and track at both schools. Brown won five regional meets in track and had an all-state basketball player every year at Elkins.
He next accepted an assistant coaching position at WVU under then head coach John Brickels in 1945 and worked with the Mountaineer freshmen. Two years later, Brown went back to Davis & Elkins to become athletic director and head basketball coach and for the next four seasons, Brown's D&E teams went 71-20 with two WVIAC tournament appearances and one NAIB national tournament appearance in Kansas City in 1950.
Brown returned to WVU in 1950 to become the school's 13th basketball coach when Lee Patton died suddenly from injuries sustained in an automobile accident. Brown also coached the tennis team and helped Art Lewis as a scout for the football team.
For the next three seasons in basketball, Brown maintained West Virginia's dominance of the Southern Conference by winning 72 of 103 games, once being named Southern Conference coach of the year. His 1952 team, led by All-America center Mark Workman, finished the season with a 23-4 and was ranked ninth in the country. The Mountaineers were upset in the semifinals of the Southern Conference tournament by Duke in a game marred by controversy.
A West Virginia player was thrown to the ground, enabling the Blue Devils to score the winning basket as time expired. As a heated argument began to take place, Brown immediately defused the situation by shaking the hands of the officials and then the Duke players and coaches in a demonstration of class that he continued to exude for the remainder of his athletic career.
Two years later, Brown became West Virginia's fourth athletic director when Legs Hawley died suddenly of a heart attack. One of Brown's first acts as athletic director was to hire Fred Schaus as his replacement to run the basketball program, Schaus leading the WVU program to unmatched success in the mid-1950s with players such as Hot Rod Hundley (a Red Brown recruit) and Jerry West.
During Brown's 18-year tenure as director of athletics, West Virginia enjoyed considerable success in all sports. Schaus guided the basketball program to six straight NCAA tournament appearances, one trip to the national championship game in 1959 and a 146-37 mark.
Football coach Art Lewis, baseball and wrestling coach Steve Harrick, track coach Stan Romanoski and soccer coach Greg Myers were also frequently winning Southern Conference titles in their respective sports.
Brown, a six-year member of the NCAA basketball selection committee, was an eight-year member of the United States Basketball Committee, including a stint on the committee's board of directors. He served on the U.S. Olympic basketball committee and was manager of te 1963 Pan American Games.
In 1963, he was chairman of sports for the state's Centennial celebration and was chairman of the NCAA Football Centennial in 1969 for West Virginia. For years he also spearheaded the West Virginia Heart Fund Campaign.
However, his crowning achievement as director of athletics at WVU was his push for a state-of-the-art basketball facility for the Mountaineers to play in. That dream finally came true in 1970 when the beautiful, 14,000-seat WVU Coliseum opened its doors. Still a sight to see as it begins its fifth decade, the WVU Coliseum was an architectural wonder of its time. The new facility helped West Virginia get the 1972 NCAA East regional to Morgantown featuring North Carolina, South Carolina, Villanova and Penn.
When Brown retired in 1972 the athletic department budget had grown to more than $1 million.
Brown, a native of Elkins, was selected to the Helms National Athletic Directors Hall of Fame in 1973 and the Davis & Elkins Hall of Fame in 1974.
In 1988 the athletic department initiated the Red Brown Cup, which has since been awarded annually to West Virginia University's most outstanding all-around student-athlete in terms of athletic, academic and civic achievement as selected by the WVU Athletic Council.
Brown died in Morgantown on June 8, 1992.