The upcoming weeks should prove interesting for the second year head football coach at West Virginia University.
(1) The Mountaineers are preparing for a Jan. 1 Gator Bowl showdown vs. Florida State and its retiring head coach, and former WVU mentor, BOBBY BOWDEN. A WVU victory would be a first for a Mountaineers coach - three straight postseason victories.
The Mountaineers currently are a slight favorite in the game, which probably will attract added national media attention because the second-winningest Division 1 coach in history is bowing out.
(2) The binding NCAA football letter-of-intent date is Feb. 3 as college recruiters scramble to land the best available talent. Stewart, and the rest of the WVU staff, will have to pick up the slack of the recent departure of DOC HOLLIDAY, the Director of Recruiting and Associate Head Coach.
Holliday, who was the third-highest paid athletic department member behind Stewart and men's basketball coach BOB HUGGINS, takes over a struggling program at Marshall. Besides the recruiting home stretch, Stewart will have to locate a staff replacement for Holliday.
Stewart, who plans to spend a couple of days in hometown New Martinsville before the team departs on Christmas Day for the bowl trip to Florida, is wrapping up the most successful two-year period for any new head coach in WVU history.
Entering the Jan. 1 bowl game, Stewart's two-year record of 18 victories in 25 games is unmatched by any previous Mountaineers coach. And that doesn't count coaching, arguably, the biggest victory in WVU history - the 48-28 Fiesta Bowl victory against a heavily favored Oklahoma team on Jan. 2, 2008.
For comparison, here's the records for the first two seasons of every WVU coach since 1950:
-BILL STEWART (2008-09) 18-7.
-RICH RODRIGUEZ (2001-02) 12-12.
-DON NEHLEN (1980-81) 15-9.
-FRANK CIGNETTI (1976-77) 10-12.
-BOBBY BOWDEN (1970-71) 15-7.
-JIM CARLEN (1966-67) 8-9-3.
-GENE CORUM (1960-61) 4-14-2.
-ART LEWIS (1950-51) 7-13.
Isn't it strange how a dose of reality doesn't always support some misguided perceptions?
The new Thundering Herd athletics director, MIKE HAMRICK, is off to a good start.
Tabbing Doc Holliday as the new head football coach adds not only a solid leader, and recruiter, but a person who might "save" the current one-sided WVU-Marshall football series.
With the Mountaineers dominating play, and results, most of the time, there have been some talk that the series might end in the next few years.
But the presence of Holliday, a former WVU coach and player, at the helm of the Herd adds another interest factor in the series that might keep the two teams competing beyond the current contract.
But, if Herd fans think the recent hiring will automatically make major improvements in recruiting, they may be disappointed.
There's no question about the recruiting skills of Holliday, particularly in Florida, but it's much easier to court prospects to a nationally ranked Big East Conference contender than to a lower-tier Conference-USA member.
The previous Herd coach, MARK SNYDER, discovered that fact. It was much easier to recruit prospects to his former employer, Ohio State, than to the Huntington-based campus.
Of course, the coach who did manage to recruit top talent to Marshall, BOB PRUETT, resulted in NCAA sanctions and recruiting violations.
But Holliday's presence should bolster recruiting at the school.
Hamrick, by the way, is the son of the former W.Va. Secondary School Activities Commission director JIM HAMRICK, who we know well.
Enjoy the wintry weekend.