That didn't dampen the assistant's spirits, however. Stewart said the Mountaineers have had a series of great practices after former head coach Rich Rodriguez announced his resignation Saturday at 1 p.m.
"Who would not be interested in this job?" Stewart said. "It's the greatest job in the nation. I am interested as an old Mountain State boy. I have not been interviewed. I am really more interested in trying to get this team ready to play. If I get an interview, great. If not, I'll take my notice and proceed on."
Calvin Magee, who flew with Rodriguez to be at his introduction as Michigan's head coach, has returned to practice and is helping with the team. While assistant Tony Gibson is following Rodriguez, Stewart said Magee's decision might depend upon how is hired by West Virginia. No. 11 WVU has practiced six times in preparation for the 37th annual Fiesta Bowl versus No. 4 Oklahoma, going once everyday from Friday through today.
"Some of them were wrestling each other," Stewart said of the players. "That's spirited, when the lads bang on each other a bit. Everyone was pleased with the effort put forth. I am so proud. They are working their hearts out. They are resilient and have kept to the task at hand. They are meeting with coaches and watching film and flying around."
Stewart a former head coach at VMI and WVU's former assistant head coach, said the staff is trying to contact as many recruits as possible. He said his being named to the interim position helped, because now he has some information to tell players. Before, there were fewer questions Stewart could answer, even about the short-term future of the program and its leadership. He also said other schools immediately took the opportunity to recall WVU commits and attempt to get them to reopen their recruitment or commit to another university.
"All my players, mine in Maryland and Virginia, (schools are) trying to snake my players," Stewart said. "Other teams and people. You will always have somebody on staff on other teams who will call them. … We have to watch how many calls we make. We were in a quiet time. You get one call to them (per week). If the young men call us or their coaches call us, we can answer the phone. I can assure you that we know who we can call and who we can't call, and we are not going to have any infractions. Once I know more, I can tell them. I could not tell them anything until 12:01 a.m. last night. Now we at least have the interim tag.
"Most of these young men picked West Virginia University because of West Virginia University. Coaches do have a lot to do with that, though. I will bet you 75 percent of the (current) players don't even know I was named interim coach. But it does help immensely because continuity is always the key to any business or organization, especially for football or a team sport of some nature. We are giving these young men all we have to give and they are absorbing the game plan."
Stewart, Magee and Rod Smith are all expected to call plays, though it won't be by committee, according to Stewart. Stewart did not say this, but he is the interim head coach, and will have to make a decision as to who the primary play caller is. He confirmed several defensive linemen did not practice on Saturday, after Rodriguez announced he was leaving.
"Some young people get a little frustrated," Stewart said. "They came right back. They are ok. Cooler heads have to prevail. I did not say anything, I let (defensive line coach) Bill Kirelawich talk to them. I winked at them and asked how they were. They said fine, and I said ‘let's go get ‘em.' … I will give you the best I have and can give. When it gets too tough for others, it's just right for Billy Stewart."