SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) - Bill Stewart was promoted to head coach
of West Virginia on Thursday, hours after leading the Mountaineers
to a stunning victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
Stewart was introduced in the morning as he and his team were
preparing to return home. He was appointed interim coach in
mid-December after Rich Rodriguez bolted for Michigan.
Stewart's five-year contract will pay $800,000 a year with
incentives. Rodriguez signed a seven-year deal in August worth
almost $2 million a year.
"Last night, we saw all the characteristics of a head football
coach - leadership, loyalty, courage," athletic director Ed
Pastilong said less than 12 hours after the 48-28 victory by the
No. 11 Mountaineers.
The hotel ballroom was packed with boosters, players and West
Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin.
"I'm West Virginia born, West Virginia bred, a West Virginian
all my life, really," Stewart said when introduced.
Stewart said late Wednesday he hadn't even been interviewed for
"I don't have a lot of experience in these negotiations and
things. That's my agent right down there," he said, pointing to
his wife, Karen.
Stewart had the backing of the team, including Pat White. The
quarterback began stumping for Stewart on the field after running
for 150 yards and throwing for 176 and two touchdowns in the
victory over the No. 3 Sooners.
"He deserves it," White said. "A great man. A great coach.
All the players respect him and all the players love him. You
couldn't ask for a better man to lead us to victory today."
"He obtained this position the old fashioned way - he earned
it," Pastilong said. "Billy led us to our biggest football
victory in the school's history against Oklahoma. And he, his
coaching staff and his support staff are outstanding Mountaineers,
leading us through a tough time. Our future is bright, and we look
forward to even more success under Coach Stewart's leadership."
WVU president Mike Garrison said Stewart fully appreciates the
"At this university, loyalty and trust are important,"
Garrison said. "We know we now have a coach who truly values the
opportunity to work as the head football coach at West Virginia
Fullback Owen Schmitt, who scored on a 57-yard run, called
Stewart the "glue" that kept the No. 11 Mountaineers together
during a rocky month.
"We're a family," Schmitt said. "That's why we prevailed."
The 55-year-old Stewart earned $139,000 this year in his
position that also included coaching tight ends and fullbacks and
being the special teams coordinator. He came to West Virginia as
quarterbacks coach in January 2000 after two seasons as offensive
coordinator in the Canadian Football League.
Don Nehlen, the retired Mountaineers coach who hired Stewart,
was glad his former assistant had landed the job.
"He's just such a good person and the kids love him," Nehlen
said. "It's such a good fit with the program."
A message left for Rodriguez early Thursday was not immediately
Stewart was head coach at VMI from 1994-96, compiling an 8-25
record. He also had stints as an assistant at Salem College, North
Carolina, Marshall, William & Mary, Navy, Arizona State and Air
Stewart was a captain for Fairmont State, which won the West
Virginia Conference championship in 1974. He began his coaching
career at Fairmont as a student assistant coach.