Deal Sealed...

The interim label appears to be no more. West Virginia assistant head coach Bill Stewart is expected to be named the 32nd head coach in Mountaineer history just hours after leading WVU to the Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma.

Stewart, formerly the associate head coach, mentored No. 9 West Virginia's transition between losing former head coach Rich Rodriguez and the 48-28 win over No. 4 Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. It was undoubtedly the most impressive overall victory in WVU postseason history for the Mountaineers (11-2), which won its school-record third consecutive traditional New Year's Day bowl. He was the lone full season holdover from former head coach Don Nehlen's staff upon the Hall of Fame coach's retirement.

He coached quarterbacks for the majority of his time. He was switched to tight ends and special teams entering this season, after Rodriguez hired former Glenville quarterback and South Florida assistant Rod Smith to coach quarterbacks. Stewart, a New Martinsville native, came to West Virginia from the Canadian Football League, where he served as offensive coordinator. A 1975 graduate of Fairmont State, Stewart was a three-year letterman and team captain for the WVIAC champions.

He was a student assistant at Fairmont State before being named an assistant at Sistersville (W.Va.) High in 1975. In 1977, Stewart went to Salem College, where he was an assistant football and head track coach. He moved to UNC in 1979, then had stints at Marshall (1980), William and Mary (1981-83), Navy (1984), North Carolina (1985-87), Arizona State (1988-89) and Air Force (1990-93). Stewart was named head coach at VMI in 1994, where he went 8-25. His 1994 team was the highest scoring team in VMI history.

He and his wife, Karen, have one son, Blaine. Stewart had an immediate vote of confidence from the players, who repeatedly said they would like to have Stewart as head coach. Offensive lineman Greg Isdaner told a Fox News crew: "This is our coach."

"Great man, great coach," West Virginia quarterback Patrick White said. "All the players respect him and love him. You could not ask for a better man to lead us." White, during the Fiesta Bowl trophy presentation, told the crowd that Stewart should be WVU's coach.

Sources close to the program say the contract will be structured differently from other recent West Virginia head coaching deals -- a show of old school commitment on both Stewart's and WVU's part to each other. Stewart will likely retire at West Virginia, which is obviously his legitimate dream job. West Virginia University will hold a 9 a.m. MST/11 a.m. EST press conference on Thursday, Jan. 3 at the Scottsdale Plasa Resort in Arizona to announce the deal.


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