Thursday, January 3, 2008

WVU Hires Bill Stewart After Huge Bowl Win

West Virginia followed up an emotional bowl win by hiring the man who coached the team in that win. Bill Stewart was left with the impossible task of holding WVU together and keeping them focused on playing a dominant Oklahoma team while their head coach left for Michigan, and everyone wrote them off in the bowl game. Stewart not only held them together, but led them to a victory over a more talented Oklahoma team. Combine the win with campaigning from the WVU players and he was awarded the job. The question now becomes, was this a knee jerk reaction after a win, or the right man for the job?

The Mountaineers have been on a roller coaster ride all year from a loss to USF that seemed to end their season, to losing against a terrible Pitt team with a chance at a National Championship appearance on the line, and finishing with a huge win over Oklahoma. The team was down and most expected them to quit, but they came out fired up and dominated Oklahoma. The players credited Stewart for not only helping them through the tough time, but also the win. While it was a great story we have seen a similar one before. When Butch Davis left Miami for Cleveland, Ken Dorsey went the AD at Miami and asked for Larry Coker to be kept as head coach. Miami won a National Championship in the short term, but were left poorly for the long term.

Stewart, like Coker, is the nice guy that players say they love and want to play for. The problem is that sometimes the players don't play hard enough for the "nice guy." While screaming coaches have seem to fallen out of favor for todays athlete, there is still a need for someone who can be the bad guy when needed.

This will be Stewarts second go at being a head coach, with his first go-round not being very good. Stewart was the VMI head coach from 1994-1996, and had a record of 8-25. Since leaving VMI, Stewart has coached on a couple different teams in many different capacities. He was hired in 2000 by Don Nehlen and stayed on when Rich Rodriguez got the job full-time after Nehlen's retirement. Most recently he has been the tight ends coach.

One would hope that WVU had Stewart on the top of the list before the Fiesta bowl and the win was only the final part that put him ahead of another coach, but we will never know. Maybe the players are right and Stewart is the man for the job. He is a WVU guy, the players love him, and he has been with the team for 2007. If he can convince recruits that nothing will change and surround himself with a great staff, he will succeed and this will be a good hire. If he becomes another Larry Coker than it will seem that WVU made a knee jerk reaction and made a bad choice. Only time will tell.

I think WVU did what they thought was best. There was not that big name coach out there to land right now. Ask older WVU fans what they think of a Bowden and they will give you a bad look and tell you how happy they were that Bobby left when he did. WVU fans did not want Terry Bowden, and was another assistant and another school any better of a fit? I don't know for sure if this hire was good or bad, but the move is definitely not as bad as the media is making it out to be.

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