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Stew Getting the Old Gang Back Together

By Staff | May 20, 2008

By now we’ve all heard the story. WVU was one win over mega-rival Pitt away from playing for (and maybe even winning) a football national championship last December. Pitt came into Mountaineer Field, took advantage of all the mistakes (and there were a lot) WVU made and upset the then No.2 Mounties to dash the championship hopes that had been dancing in the heads of the Mountie-faithful.

Then three weeks before WVU was to face Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, head coach Rich Rodriguez abruptly left Morgantown to take the head coaching job at arguably one of the most prestigious football programs in the country, Michigan. The blow was especially hard to deal with for WVU fans after former basketball head coach John Belien departed the blue and gold for the maize and blue earlier that year.

Enter Bill Stewart. While some Mountie enthusiasts were busy harassing Rodriguez’s family and friends, Stewart was named interim head coach and charged with the task of getting WVU ready for the Fiesta Bowl.

West Virginia took down Oklahoma 48-28, and a new West Virginia folk hero was born. Stewart accepted the full-time head coaching position the next morning and set about getting a coaching staff put together. Having worked under WVU hall of fame head coach Don Nehlen, Stewart got as many Nehlen disciples as possible to take the country roads back home to Morgantown.

Mountaineer fans should be singing Stew’s praises from every hilltop in the state (hang on a second while I plant my tongue firmly in my cheek). Gone will be the days of the evil tyrant Rich Rodriguez. No longer will WVU enjoy Big East championships and an annual spot in the top-10. Yes, all of the terrible things RichRod did during his time at his alma mater will be undone.

Stew’s in charge now and he’s got the gang of good ol’ boys back together. “Doc” Holliday, Steve Dunlap and Bill Kirelawich, all of them former Nehlen assistants with Stewart, are back in Morgantown to get the Mounties back to the good old days of Nehlen-ball. Before long, the Mountaineers will be right back where they belong, going 7-5 and losing bowl games like it is going out of style.

Stewart, while no doubt a good guy and a nice man, probably has the worst resume of any head coach that I have ever known to be hired as a head coach a second time. During his last stint in charge, Stewart led VMI to an 8-25 record in three seasons. Let me say that again for emphasis: Stewart went 8-25 in his three seasons at VMI.

Yes, the Fiesta Bowl win was a landmark win for a program that was in disarray. That does not change the fact that the powers that be at WVU hired Stewart on a wave of great PR and not on his past record.

So say what you want to say about Rich Rodriguez and all the “terrible” things he did to WVU. Bill Stewart has won exactly one game as head coach at West Virginia, and in the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately world of college football, he’d better win some more if he hopes to keep having great days as a Mountaineer.

Contact Tom at tbragg@graffitiwv.com