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Stewart A Five-Star In Class

February 5, 2010
By JIM ELLIOTT

MORGANTOWN - Bill Stewart is always saying as West Virginia fans, you should be proud of ''your Mountaineers.''

Today, you should be proud of your head coach.

Much is often made of Stewart's game-day decisions - right or wrong - which is to be expected. If a major college coach doesn't have thick enough skin to handle hindsight criticism, he's in the wrong business.

But not enough has been made about the man's off-field decisions. Because they're spot-on every time.

Stewart spoke for nearly 44 minutes Wednesday at the Puskar Center, mostly about players that are probably a year or two from making any type of impact at the school.

In and among it, though, he relayed a couple of stories about one guy whose impact was immediate and far-reaching.

His own.

The subject was his coaching staff and who recruited whom, given Doc Holliday, the staff's recruiting coordinator, landed the head coaching job at Marshall and took a few staffers with him.

Filling Doc's role - not necessarily as recruiting coordinator - was to be Dave McMichael, a former WVU assistant who was hired away from the staff at the University of Connecticut.

As long as Lane Kiffin is around, stories like the one Stewart told Wednesday will always warm the heart and allow you to believe the ''L-word'' still exists in major college football.

Loyalty.

''I called (Connecticut Coach) Randy Edsall, and I said, 'I'm not going to bring Dave McMichael in until after signing day,' '' Stewart recalled. ''He said 'you don't have to do that,' and I said 'oh, but I do. Randy, you and I are friends.' I said 'Dave McMichael can stay up there until February 3rd, finish up your recruiting. I don't want him; I don't need him, then you can send him on down.'

''Dave and Randy spoke and he said he's ready to come. When Dave McMichael got here, I told him to talk to absolutely no University of Connecticut recruits in any way. I sent him on the road and he went to see juniors up in Pennsylvania.''

Now you might be wondering, 'why would West Virginia want any UConn recruits anyway, considering the Huskies have never beaten the Mountaineers?'

That, of course, is rather small-minded thinking, considering Connecticut annually sends as many players to the NFL as any Big East team, so poaching a few recruits could seemingly be a boost to WVU's talent-accumulating efforts.

Unless Stewart, one of college football - and life's - good guys, is standing at the end of that decision.

''That was my call,'' said Stewart, who has often said he learned his core values in his hometown of New Martinsville, along the banks of the Ohio. ''I said, 'I'll see you February 4th, you stay and do your job with the University of Connecticut Huskies.' They told him to come so he came. I would not allow him in any way shape or form talk to any University of Connecticut Husky, nor would Dave McMichael do that because he's a class man and a quality human being. We don't do that at West Virginia. I want everyone to understand that.''

So Stewart decided to punt rather than go for it.

Good for him.

At least he didn't come in for a year, name a kid Morgan (short for Morgantown), then head off to sandier beaches after one rather unremarkable 7-6 season, leaving those who remained to pick up the pieces.

West Virginia University's reputation takes its share of hits nationally, with the behavior of the basketball fans out in front of a rather ugly storm at the moment. That's why it's sometimes good to sacrifice a first down in the game of football in favor of humility and respect in the game of life.

Thanks Coach Stew, for leading the way.

Jim Elliott can be reached via e-mail at: elliott@theintelligencer.net

 
 

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