Core of Steel

Everyone wondered if West Virginia head coach Bill Stewart was "too nice" to be the man in charge of a major college football program in today's collegiate world. He answered that concern with definitive answer in the first noteworthy disciplinary situation of his regime.

Following the arrest of three players on charges of possession and intent to distribute marijuana, Stewart assessed the situation, gathered information, and acted decisively.

In a brief statement issued by the WVU sports communication office, Stewart announced that Ed Collington, John Holmes and James Ingram have been dismissed from the Mountaineer football squad for a violation of team rules.

"These three players are dismissed from all aspects of the Mountaineer football family," Stewart said in the prepared statement. "The players will retain their scholarships through the end of the academic school year, pending the legal process."

The last sentence points directly to the possibility that the players' scholarships could be revoked if they are convicted of crimes. Scholarship agreements typically include language noting that they can be revoked for due cause.

More importantly, however, Stewart has shown that he not only talks the talk, but that he walks the walk. Certainly, he pumps up the Mountaineer football program, and is proud of its accomplishments, but he will not let poor off the field behavior tarnish the program. His swift and decisive action sends a message to anyone who thought that WVU's new coach would be a soft touch, or would not maintain discipline on his charges.

Of course, Stewart demonstrated the same thing a couple of days prior to the Fiesta Bowl, when redshirt safety Evan Rodriguez was sent home for violating curfew. (Rodriguez is currently back in the good graces of the WVU program.) Stewart could have overlooked that small transgression, but his action, performed while he was still the acting head coach, showed that he is serious about the rules his Mountaineer team has to follow.

With these moves, Stewart has demonstrated the balance, and the fairness, that a head coach needs. It's just another sign that bodes well for the long-term prospects of the program. While WVU might miss the contributions the trio of players could have made on the field in 2008, it will benefit more heavily in the long term. Kudos and cheers for Stewart, who once again has passed an integrity test with flying colors.


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