Sources: West Virginia to hire Baker as new AD

West Virginia is expected to hire Wren Baker as its next athletic director, sources told ESPN.

A deal has not been signed but is expected to be finalized in the next 24 hours, according to sources.

Baker is the athletic director at North Texas and emerged as one of the most respected young administrators in college sports since arriving there in 2016. Sources told ESPN he’s agreed in principle to a six-year deal to become the Mountaineers’ new athletic director.

Baker oversaw North Texas’ impending transition to the American Athletic Conference from Conference USA and helped build North Texas’ facilities to some of the best at the Group of 5 level.

During Baker’s tenure there, North Texas has reached the second round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament and gone to bowl games in six of the past seven seasons. North Texas (7-5) plays at UTSA this weekend in the Conference USA football championship game.

Baker’s hires at North Texas include men’s basketball coach Grant McCasland, who has either won the regular season or league tournament in Conference USA the last three years.

For Baker, the appeal of the West Virginia job is the opportunity to lead a Big 12 program. He’s a graduate of Oklahoma State, where he served as a graduate assistant coach for Eddie Sutton.

Baker has been choosy about his next step over the years, and has remained at North Texas in part because of that school’s aggressiveness to keep him. Baker’s latest known salary is just under $800,000 per year, which puts him among the highest-paid athletic directions in the Group of 5. His compensation from West Virginia isn’t known yet.

For West Virginia’s brass, Baker’s roots growing up in rural Oklahoma were viewed as an asset, as his background fits the school’s blue-collar vibe. Baker is a former high school principal in Oklahoma, and his background includes a stint as a head college basketball coach and work as an athletic director at the Division II and NAIA level.

Baker will take over for Shane Lyons, who was fired in mid-November and has since taken a role in the Alabama athletic department.

West Virginia still hasn’t declared publicly whether football coach Neal Brown is returning, but his chances have increased significantly after closing with two wins in the last three games, including over Oklahoma and at Oklahoma State to finish 5-7.

Brown would be owed nearly $17 million for the remainder of his contract, and that financial commitment loomed as one of the reasons why Lyons was fired.

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