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Coach Stew, a coach you can trust

By Staff | Dec 29, 2009

Anyone can talk a good talk, that’s true. He Who Shall Not Be Named certainly did. But there’s something different about WVU football Coach Bill Stewart.

It’s not only that he’s a born and raised Mountaineer — others before him have been, too. And it’s not only that he’s winning. Others have done that, too, and, quite frankly, a little better than he has so far.

I suppose when it comes down to it, that something is integrity. It’s also hope and trust and honesty. Those words get thrown around a lot these days and it’s easy to get let down by such promises in our leaders (none, perhaps, more so than in the leader of our Free Country, who’s proven himself maybe a little bit of a disappointment).

But anyway, those sentiments are stirred up in me when I look Bill Stewart in the eye, or when I see him on TV giving a press conference or patrolling the sidelines.

Maybe it’s the Mountaineer in me. We do tend to value old-fashioned qualities like those mentioned above. We do tend to embrace “throw-back” ways of life, and in a college football environment where players are pampered, paid and put on a pedestal, it’s refreshing to hear someone simultaneously call out his team and support them for values like hard work and integrity.

So when Coach Stew says things like the following, well, we Mountaineer fans can’t help but acknowledge the truth of the matter and appreciate the candor, even if we’re a little disappointed in the final record of our boys.

The following are some selected quotes and quips from the coach that we found intriguing, inspiring or just plain interesting.

“I’m very pleased to stand before you as a 9-3 football team, and I mean that sincerely. Are we overjoyed? Is it the greatest thing that ever happened? No, we want to be 12-0, hopefully someday, working on our 13th win, but we’re 9-3.

“If you had told me in Tampa, we would finish like we did and I was hopeful we would have — I felt deep down that we could if we just kept together, and that’s what we did.

“About the season, I wasn’t pleased with the fourth quarter at Auburn, I said that, I’ve been on record, I reiterate it. I was not pleased with quarters 2, 3 and 4 at South Florida. I’ve said that. I reiterate it again. And I was not pleased — well I was pleased with our effort — in the 10th football game at Cincinnati, but there were some other, one other thing I wasn’t pleased with, which I told people I wouldn’t talk about, because if I dwell on the negative of a 90-second situation — it wasn’t on the field, it was off the field — then I’m not doing my job as a football coach. I’ll have my players worrying about more than what could have been, what should have been. So, with that being said, we’re 9-3. We’re excited to be 9-3, as I said earlier. And now we have a chance to win a 10th football game.

“I would like to say this — that night in Tampa was big for the chemistry of our football team, and we all took an oath as players and coaches and said each guy is going to give just a little bit more. Don’t have to do a lot. Don’t have to do it all. Each guy is going to give just a little bit more. As a football team and as a staff, and particularly as the CEO of this football program, I, we and they gave just a little bit more. So I’m pleased about that.

“The night in Cincinnati, we took the fourth or fifth ranked team, whatever they were at that time, to within three, and I thought what we did on the field was good enough to win, and I’m proud of my guys that they didn’t get negative, they didn’t let that fester, that they didn’t let that controversial play that wasn’t on the field, that came from upstairs, take that win away from such a formidable opponent as Cincy. So, that’s where we are. …

Question: Are you surprised in this economy this game sold out that fast?

“Oh no, no, I was down in Jacksonville at the Hyatt at the Gator Bowl press conference. You can not believe the buzz. You have to be there to see the buzz. We’re going to walk out in that stadium, I’ve told the guys this, there’s going to be 70,000 crimson, gold and white Florida State fans, I’m sure, against about 15,000 of us. I like those odds, I’ll take those odds, because 15,000 West Virginians in that stadium’s all we need. If we get more, that’s great. They’re going to — our men know they’re going to be outnumbered, our men know they’re going to be up against it, and if they don’t they’re going to know real quick as soon as we come through that tunnel.

Question: Do you see yourselves as the underdogs or the favorite?

“Oh my, we’re underdogs, yes, you’re talking about one of the greatest coaches in the history of the game going out. I wear this ring very proudly. That’s my Music City Bowl ring, right there. Don Nehlen. I’ve coached a lot of football games in my time. That one right there, I gave everything I had to give. I gave just a little more that night for Coach Nehlen. I can only imagine what the Florida State Coaches and players are going to do, and I can only imagine what Coach Bowden himself is going to do for this last hurrah.

Question: Do you have any questions about accepting that challenge?

“Not one bit. I could tell you this. In 1970, when I came over here from New Martinsville, W.Va., I never have dreamed this day would have come about. I was a little walk-on linebacker, and he let me come out and try out for the team, and he was the head football coach, in his first year, and I never dreamed this day would come. But I’m very honored to be across the field from him in his last game. Let me assure you, you have no idea, I just hope I can keep my emotions in check that day. It’s going to be very difficult.

Contact Justin at jmcintosh@graffitiwv.com