Head Coach Stew

In the end, West Virginia didn't need to look far from home for its next football coach. Following a search that included names from across the nation, not to mention the decades, the Mountaineers hired assistant coach Bill Stewart the morning after WVU's 48-28 victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.

Stewart and the school agreed to a five-year, $4 million contract that approximates the one former head coach Rich Rodriguez initially signed upon returning to his alma mater in 2001. Stewart's contract will also carry many incentives that could increase his salary substantially. Expected bonuses would include payouts for conference titles, bowl and BCS bowl appearances, graduation rates and ticket sales. Sources also indicated that a buyout might not be included in the contract. West Virginia delayed its charter flight back to Morgantown to make the announcement in Arizona.

To the general approval of the audience on hand at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort, Stewart announced that all members of the current football staff would be offered the chance to stay at West Virginia. Several current assistants and staff members have received offers to join Rodriguez at Michigan, which sets up an interesting possibility of a tug of war between the two schools for the loyalties of those staffers. Assistant coach Tony Gibson has already departed WVU for Michigan and will not return, but running backs coach Calvin Magee, who has tendered his resignation to West Virginia, could have second thoughts now that Stewart is at the helm.

Stewart's even-keeled approach was just the tonic a team in turmoil from Rodriguez' unseemly departure needed, and the Mountaineers responded with a vengeance in a game that few thought they could win. Shorter, crisper practices and a more level-headed coach style was met with great approval by the players, who likely would have strongly protested the hiring of any other coach but Stewart.

Stewart was at his down-home best in describing the hiring process.

"we met at about 3:00 a.m. and hashed it all out," he said. "They didn't have to twist my arm. I don't even know how much I'm making, but it doesn't really matter. This is my last job. I won't leave here. And they won't have to tell me when I'm not doing the job – I will tell them [when it happens]."

In a not-so-thinly veiled shot at the high-powered agents that now permeate the college landscape, Stewart reverted to a simpler time.

"I'm a man of my word, and a handshake has always been good for me," he said of the agreement that sealed the deal. This is my agent," he said, holding up his hand to roars of approval from the packed press conference.

Asked how he would be different as a head coach, Stewart pointed to the experience of his years as something that would influence his tenure at WVU.

"I will be pretty much the same guy. I'm a lot calmer, and older and wiser. I can get the job done without being so harsh."

Rodriguez also mentioned two former coaches in his comments.

"You'll see a lot more of Don Nehlen around now that I am the head coach," he said. "I have not talked to Rich Rodriguez either. I will thank him for giving me this opportunity."

Stewart also said he has not confirmed anyone to his staff yet, but that he will begin working on that this evening when he returns to Morgantown.


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