Football field will be renamed in late WVU coach’s honor

NEW MARTINSVILLE – Magnolia High School will honor one of its own Friday night during halftime of the regular-season finale against Oak Glen.

The plan is to rename the football stadium from Alumni Field to ”Alumni Field at Bill Stewart Memorial Stadium,” in honor of the late West Virginia University football coach and native son who proudly boasted for years about being a Magnolia graduate, including when he reached the top of his profession 36 years after he left New Martinsville for Fairmont State.

”He was on national TV – at the Fiesta Bowl – talking about his hometown,” Magnolia football coach Mark Batton said. ”That’s special. We’ve had a close relationship to him. I think it’s a great honor for his family, It’s a great honor for any Magnolia alumni.”

School officials have invited Stewart’s family, including his wife Karen and son Blaine, to the festivities.

”It will be hopefully a nice evening for them,” Batton said. ”It’s going to be a nice program to honor Coach Stew and dedicate the stadium.”

Also invited is former WVU fullback Owen Schmitt, who plans to say a few words about his former coach.

On the field will be Stew’s nephew Jared Kacor, (No. 1) a sophomore defensive back for the Blue Eagles. He’s one of three of Stewart’s nephews to have played for Magnolia, along with more than a few other relatives.

Stewart loved keeping those ties as strong as possible.

It was during one of his first interviews as interim coach at WVU – the day he received that tag – that he explained the mentality any Mountaineers team would have under his watch.

”We’ve had some big games,” he said. ”Old Magnolia used to play some people. We used to have a saying in New Martinsville – Have game, will travel. In New Martinsville, we’d play two on Saturday if you wanted to. We’d play a doubleheader.”

Stewart, who died May 21, 2012, toiled as a football coach for years in a profession that took him to map dots like Navy, Marshall, William & Mary, Virginia Military Academy, Arizona State, Air Force, and the Canadian Football League. He returned to his home state’s flagship university in 2000.

In December 2007, Stewart was named WVU’s interim head coach after a messy split between the school and former coach Rich Rodriguez and was tasked with keeping the team focused in time for the Fiesta Bowl, which was a month away.

The Mountaineers won that game, 48-28, and amid that euphoria, Stewart had the interim tagged removed from his name that night.

His speech from that night still induces cold chills:

”We gotta outblock them, we gotta outtackle them, we’ve got to outhit them and hustle,” he yelled. ”… It’s real simple. Stay within the legal limits of the game. It’s Mountaineers pride. Nothing cheap. From the heart. Straining. Leave no doubt tonight they shouldn’t have played the old Gold and Blue. Not this night.”

Stewart coached at WVU for three years, compiling a 28-12 record.