Editorial - Stewart’s legacy defined by his character, success
Published: Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, May 22, 2012 23:05
About this time last year, West Virginia University’s football program was in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Following a disappointing 9-4 season, which concluded with a loss to North Carolina State in the Champs Sports Bowl, WVU Athletic Director Oliver Luck announced Dana Holgorsen would be hired as the new offensive coordinator and would replace Bill Stewart as head coach after the 2011 season.
Critics immediately questioned the wisdom of this coach-in-waiting arrangement. A few short months later, these doubts were validated after a messy, public dispute between Stewart and Holgorsen culminated in Stewart’s premature resignation.
Now, less than a year after Stewart stepped down, the WVU community is shocked by his tragic, untimely death.
As the Mountaineer family mourns the passing of one of its truly great members, it is important that his accomplishments, both on and off the field, aren’t overshadowed by a poor management decision that set the stage for the embarrassing end to his stint as head coach of the University’s football team.
One need only to have been on Twitter in the immediate aftermath of his death to understand how much this man meant to those he worked with. Within minutes of the official announcement, he was one of the most talked about topics on the social media site. Many of his former players and colleagues took to the Internet to express their sadness and emphasize the important role Stewart played in their lives.
West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who was governor during Stewart’s time as head coach, described Stewart as one of West Virginia’s best citizens. The incredible outpouring of sadness and support that followed his death is a testament to his lasting legacy as someone who cared deeply about his players and his state.
Stewart’s successes in football are also worthy of recognition. During his three seasons as WVU’s head coach, he led the team to a combined 28-12 record. Stewart was also the first to offer current Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, who is the youngest NFL coach to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory, a coaching position.
Then, of course, there was the 2008 Fiesta Bowl, during which Stewart rose to the occasion and led a football team devastated by the betrayal of Rich Rodriguez to a historic victory against the heavily favored Oklahoma Sooners.
Despite the turbulent and dramatic end to his tenure as WVU’s football head coach, Bill Stewart’s legacy should be defined by his exemplary character and his invaluable contributions to his university and his state.