Bill Stewart Deserved Far Better

“Winning isn’t everything – it’s the only thing” has been attributed to the late Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi, among others. At West Virginia University, it seems, winning everything is the only thing.

If you pay any attention to WVU football, you know what happened last week. WVU officials announced they are replacing head football Coach Bill Stewart.

Dana Holgorsen, who’s offensive coordinator for the Oklahoma State team, will assume the same position at WVU. He’ll serve under Stewart next year, then take the reins in 2012.

I’m sure Holgorsen is a great guy who will do an excellent job for the Mountaineers. But Bill Stewart is a great guy who’s done an excellent job – under very trying circumstances – for WVU.

As sports columnist Doug Huff pointed out in The Intelligencer yesterday, Stewart stepped up to the plate during a chaotic time at WVU, just after former head Coach Rich Rodriguez left. Stewart led the team to an upset win in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl. He record as head coach is 28-11, which Huff noted is the second best for a new coach in WVU history.

Not good enough, WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck and others involved in the decision making process seem to think. They want a national championship in football, and they don’t seem to believe Stewart can guide the team to it.

Never mind that he really hasn’t had enough time to build a national championship program. Don’t think about the many factors beyond a head coach’s control that go into winning a national title. And let’s ignore the fact, again, that Stewart has done quite well with the Mountaineers.

No championship within just a few years? You’re outta here!

That stinks, in my humble opinion. The “humble” is because I don’t really know enough about college football to judge Stewart’s work. On the other hand, I wonder how much those involved in the decision to can him know.

What I do know is that Bill Stewart is one of the good guys.

We both grew up in New Martinsville during the 1960s, though I can’t say we were friends then. We are now, I like to think.

A few years ago, before Stewart became head coach, I ran into him in New Martinsville. We were talking about the WVU football program, and I mentioned to him that, in my opinion, winning games isn’t the only reason why a team develops a big base of loyal fans. People have to like the team, I said to Stewart. That means they have to like the way players and coaches conduct themselves, both on and off the field.

I was preaching to the choir (or maybe, in this case, the preacher himself), of course. Since Stewart became the head coach, I have seen and heard of lots of reasons to like the WVU football team. Stewart is among the most highly respected coaches in major college football. He’s the kind of down-home gentleman you don’t see very often.

What the WVU hierarchy did last week was wrong – and perhaps not even smart. But I’ll continue to root for the ‘Eers – next season, anyway.

Myer can be reached via e-mail at: