Always a Mountaineer
Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 23:05
Former West Virginia football head coach Bill Stewart died Monday of an apparent heart attack.
Stewart passed away on the golf course while playing in a tournament at Stonewall Resort with former Athletic Director Ed Pastilong.
"It was a tremendously enjoyable day here. The weather was nice, and Billy (Stewart) was in a really jovial mood," Pastilong said. "He said, ‘Fisher DeBerry always said ...’ and boom – I looked over and he was on his back.
"There was no response at all ... It’s just unbelievable, so sad."
Most Mountaineer fans will remember Stewart as the coach who stepped in at a rough time for the football program leading West Virginia to a historic 48-28 victory against Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl.
But to players, coaches, administrators and others Stewart was close to, he was much more than a football coach.
"A true gentleman, friend, man, coach, teacher, husband is how I view Coach Bill Stewart," said former West Virginia running back Steve Slaton. "I’m at a loss for words to express how much respect I have for this man. Every conversation that I have had the chance to be involved with him, he made me feel as an equal.
"I am honored to have had him as a friend and coach. I know every player who has had the opportunity to be around him would say the same. Mountaineer Nation has lost one of its biggest fans."
Stewart joined former WVU head coach Don Nehlen’s staff in 2000 and served as an assistant during Nehlen’s final season and Rich Rodriguez’s time as head coach before earning the interim head coach title when Rodriguez went to Michigan prior to the Fiesta Bowl.
"This is a really sad day with the loss of Bill Stewart. We spent seven great years together at West Virginia," Rodriguez said in a statement to The Daily Athenaeum Monday. "He was an outstanding person, coach and friend to everybody on the staff. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Karen, his son, Blaine and his many friends and family."
While football was Stewart’s passion, he knew there were more important things. Above all, he was a family man.
Even during his years as West Virginia’s head coach, he was known to always spend as much time as possible with his wife and son.
He also acted as a father figure to every player he had the opportunity to coach.
"I don’t think words can explain what he’s done for the program and what he’s done for his players like my teammates and me. He made us better men both on the field and off the field," said former WVU offensive lineman Don Barclay. "It’s crazy to think he’s such a young guy and something like this would happen. It’s just horrible to see something like this happen."
Throughout his time at West Virginia, and even during his tumultuous exit almost a year ago, Stewart exemplified what it meant to be a West Virginian.
"Coach Stewart was a rock-solid West Virginian and a true Mountaineer," said WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck in a statement. "His enthusiasm and passion for his state’s flagship University was infectious.
"We join all Mountaineers in mourning his passing."