Nobody loved West Virginia and the WVU football program more than the late Bill Stewart.
He picked the program, and the entire Mountain State, up to new heights following one of the darkest times in school history. He inherited a team full of potential that, unfortunately, never really lived up to its billing.
Stewart’s run as a head coach at West Virginia seemed to be over shortly after it started. However, he is responsible for lifting the Mountaineers’ spirits better than any man ever could.
How his situation was handled was, really, out of his control.
Stewart, a New Martinsville native, took over the West Virginia football team at the end of the 2007 season. It was a campaign that ended with the infamous 13-9 game against rival Pitt that ultimately kept the Mountaineers out of the BCS National Championship Game.
Still, there was a bowl game to be played. And, it was a good one, at that. West Virginia was set to take on Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl and Stewart, an assistant coach for the previous seven seasons, was tasked with inspiring a team and a fanbase after the devastating loss to the Panthers.
Plus, Stewart had to compensate for the unexpected departure of former head coach Rich Rodriguez.
Nobody expected him to succeed. West Virginia beating Oklahoma seemed like a pipe dream.
Stewart, however, made sure his old gold and blue charges left no doubt out in Arizona.
His speech is still played over and over by WVU football fans and it is sure to still give chills to everyone who watches. Stewart was exactly the inspirational leader the program needed after it seemed like Rodriguez abandoned the players high and dry following the worst loss in school history.
The Stewart-led Mountaineers upset Oklahoma, 48-28. The WVU football program earned a new level of national respect and Stewart was promoted to a new job.
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He earned the head coaching job and would be in control of the Mountaineers for three full seasons. When Oliver Luck was hired as the new Athletic Director to replace the retiring Ed Pastilong, Stewart’s luck had run out.
The fresh-thinking Luck did not like the direction that the WVU football program was heading. Stewart did have nine-win seasons in his years leading the Mountaineers, but it wasn’t enough to please Luck.
A botched plan to force out Stewart and hire Dana Holgorsen in 2011 was the ultimate downfall for Stewart. It was an awkward position for Stewart and he didn’t take it too well. He resigned in 2011.
About a year later, he passed away of an apparent heart attack.
Stewart passed away on a golf course, so he was doing something that he loved. At 59 years of age, he was still gone way too soon.
Stewart gave his heart and soul to the state of West Virginia and the WVU football program. If he were still alive today, there is no doubt that Stewart would still love the Mountaineers and keep giving back to the program and the people who support the Mountaineers.