Really, if you think about it, who else could we have hired at the time?
For in those days, there was a great pall upon Mountaineer Nation. The evil empire to the north had crushed our hopes of a National Championship. Our beloved native son had turned out to be Benedict Arnold reincarnate, and he left for an evil empire even further to the north.
In the days since early-December, we had heard the names of numerous would-be head coaches. First the name of Doc Holliday surfaced as a “shoo-in” for the job. Then the Bowden camp went to work, splitting our nation in large fragments. Still others believed the Miracle of Saint Nick could still come true. Candidates were interviewed and were either found lacking, or, most unthinkable, found our opportunity lacking.
So as we struggled toward the Fiesta Bowl in January, our program was in shambles. We had lost a chance to play for the NC. We had lost the coach who was to lead us to the promised land. We had very little prospects for hiring a coach who would satisfy everyone, and our fan base was fractured beyond belief. And almighty RECRUITING was in disarray, with little time to catch up.
The ONLY figure who seemed to unite the program at that time was Bill Stewart. Practices leading up to the Fiesta were said to be going well. In Arizona, key players, who would be back for the 2008 campaign openly voiced their support for Coach Stewart and their hope that he would lead the Mountaineers in the future.
And then it happened. Possibly the most improbable big-game victory in Mountaineer football history occurred. The Mountaineers thoroughly thrashed the highly touted Sooners, who some believed should be playing in the NC game (or at least were good enough to do so).
All of these factors: our fan base fractured over who should be the next head coach; star players calling for Stewart to be hired; the desire to maintain continuity in our playing style and in recruiting; and, possibly; a drink or two at 3:00 AM made Stewart the easiest and most logical choice as our next head coach.
I didn’t see any reasonable alternative at the time, and, in retrospect, I still don’t. I personally saw this as a “good” interim solution, taking Bill’s word that we “…wouldn’t have to tell ole’ Bill when it was time to leave.”
I admit I stubbornly held out hope – until last year’s Marshall game. That’s when I turned to my wife and said, “Bill Stewart needs to go.”
Since that game, I’ve seen some of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen in College Football. Losses to two inferior teams, the hiring of a new OC/HCIW; the failure of a HC to fairly deal with his subordinates (Mullen and Johnson) a demoralizing defeat in a bowl game, and, now, the incredible soap opera that has played out over the last few weeks.
It’s time to let it loose. It’s time to fully recognize the failures of the program, on the field, and even greater, off of it. And it’s time to get back behind the Mountaineers and win exciting football games.
- Why Dana Holgorsen Will Be a More Successful Coach Than Bill Stewart at WVU (bleacherreport.com)
- Bill Stewart: Did He Promote an Atmosphere of Compliance at WVU? (bleacherreport.com)
- Curtain Call: West Virginia Head Coach Bill Stewart Resigns Amid Controversy (bleacherreport.com)