The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

November 29, 2010

HERTZEL COLUMN - Stewart: Retirement reports false

MORGANTOWN — It began at a moment when Bill Stewart was finally off and enjoying a moment of peace, a time away from the constant turmoil that has invaded his life from the day he was named Rich Rodriguez’s replacement as head football coach at West Virginia University.

Here he was in the stands in Martinsburg, freezing because he does not like to wear heavy winter clothing, a leftover from his childhood when he had trouble throwing his snowballs accurately with gloves on.

His son, Blaine, is the holder for the Morgantown High School football team and Stewart was there as a spectator, the huge victory over Pitt now in his rearview mirror and Rutgers not yet in his headlights.

So what if Connecticut was playing Cincinnati in a game that had a direct bearing on the Big East race?

He was a father and his son had a football game and, he swears, he did not see a snap of the UConn game, although he did accept more than one text message on its progress from his public relations man, Mike Montoro.

“I got 10,000 witnesses that saw me there at Martinsburg,” he said when someone questioned how he could possibly not watch the UConn game, even though he could do nothing about its outcome.

He understood that in the real world, family has its place alongside team and the new American religion, football.

And so he was there, not even second-guessing Coach John Bowers as he dropped the decision in the state semifinal, the way fans second-guess him.

“I don’t do that,” he said. “In fact, if someone is doing it near me, I move. Sometimes I even go sit on the other side.”

It was, he thought, a great day away from the heat of being West Virginia’s football coach, but there was a plot being devised right then, a fan website that will go unnamed so as to not bring even the curious to it to increase its hit count, was preparing a report that Stewart was going to retire as Mountaineer football coach, according to sources.

The inference, of course, was that athletic director Oliver Luck was forcing him out, which may or may not be true considering that Luck has said nothing on the subject, but at this time Stewart was thinking of anything but retiring.

So it was, as the word spread across the Internet, Stewart addressed it head on during his Sunday media call, the media at least having the courtesy to ask him if there was any truth to the story, a small matter the Internet site overlooked.

“First and foremost, let me begin by saying the reports of my retirement are greatly exaggerated. In fact, you’re hearing it directly from me, Bill Stewart — I have no intention of walking away. I’m not focusing on retirement. Lastly, and most importantly, I’m focusing on Rutgers.”

Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers, he said, that is the only focus for him, his staff and his players.

“I’m very proud of my team because we are working as one — one pulse, one heartbeat, one team,” he said. “Lastly, and most importantly, no player on this team has any intention of being the team’s weak link.”

It was, quite obviously, the right thing to say and is the right thing to do.

But if there is a distraction like rumors of his retirement or questions about his future hanging over the entire program, it could be devastating. No one likes to exist in a situation that is uncertain, where you don’t know where you as a player or you as a coach stand in the future.

Yet that was exactly what was happening and Stewart was trying to redirect attention — his, his team’s, his staff’s, the media’s and the public’s — to the game, a game that was so important that he didn’t even have any interest next week in watching UConn and South Florida play, even if his team took care of business.

That UConn-South Florida affair, which comes on hours after WVU and Rutgers, only would be carrying a victorious WVU’s bowl fate with it.

“I don’t really care if I see one snap of the UConn-USF game Saturday night. If we beat Rutgers, we are BIG EAST champs, and that was our goal. The rest of that stuff is for others. My focus is Rutgers,” he said.

And when a member of media pressed him on it, asking in essence if he knew what he was saying, Stewart stood by what he had said.

“In all honesty, I don’t know what I’m going to do. I can tell you what I did this past Saturday, and I did not watch one snap of the UConn-UC game. It doesn’t matter to me,” he answered.

“The only thing that matters to me, this staff and these players is worrying about Rutgers and our business. We can’t worry about others’ business. I’m going to keep pounding that into these players’ heads, and I will run them up Law School Hill if I hear any talk come out of that locker room.”

So there it is, just another day in as bizarre a West Virginia football season as has ever been played, and certainly in a coaching career that is as unique as the man who is experiencing it.

E-mail Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • Bussie looks forward to WNBA

    On Tuesday, the weather turned cold, the wind blew and amongst the raindrops that fell a few snowflakes fluttered quietly to Earth.
    It was as if it was a celebration of Asya Bussie being drafted on Monday night by the Minnesota Lynx, champions of the WNBA, with the third selection of the second round, the 15th overall pick of the draft.

    April 16, 2014

  • WVU’s Harlee named Big 12 Scholar-Athlete

    The Big 12 Conference announced its Scholar-Athlete of the Year recipients for the 2014 winter sport season, and West Virginia University senior Jess Harlee earns the honor for women’s basketball.
    Harlee was selected as the award winner based on a vote of each respective sport’s head coaching group, with coaches not permitted to vote for their own student-athletes.

    April 16, 2014

  • Gyorko, Padres agree to extension

    Jedd Gyorko, who hasn’t hit much of anything with a .178 start on this season, hit the jackpot on Monday, signing a six-year contract extension with the San Diego Padres for $35 million with a one-year club option at $13 million.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Spring game showed defense has improved

    From Dana Holgorsen’s viewpoint, which was standing right behind the offense, West Virginia’s Gold-Blue Spring Game on Saturday was a rousing success for it showed very little of what the Mountaineers will be in this coming season, probably not even showcasing the man who will direct the offense in the quarterback position.

    April 15, 2014

  • WVU signs guard; Adrian arrested for DUI

    There was something good and something bad for West Virginia men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins this past weekend as Kansas junior college player Tarik Phillip committed to play for the Mountaineers but rising sophomore Nathan Adrian was charged with Under 21 DUI after he was stopped at 1:20 a.m. Sunday for an expired registration sticker.

    April 15, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN- Most plays good, some not so good in Gold-Blue scrimmage

    There appeared to be a fine mixture of plays, most good with some not so good, in last Saturday’s West Virginia University’s Gold-Blue football scrimmage.

    April 15, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Garrison still proving he can carry the ball

    The running back raves from the West Virginia coaching this spring have been directly mostly toward Wendell Smallwood, and rest assured he earned every one of them with his versatility, but it was a reborn running back who well may have taken the biggest jump up the depth chart.

    April 14, 2014

  • WVU baseball drops seventh straight game

    One’s athletic skills are tested on a daily basis but every so often other aspects of an athlete’s makeup are tested, often far more important aspects in the game of life.

    April 14, 2014

  • Gold-Blue Game answers few questions at quarterback

    Dana Holgorsen finds himself in a quarterback quandary.
    He’s looking to have one quarterback and has five of them as spring practice ends, and nothing about the spring session has done anything to straighten out the situation.

    April 13, 2014

  • Moore ‘back at home’ under center

    There are a couple of ways to look at what Logan Moore did this spring after being moved back to quarterback and given a chance to compete for what is a wide open job, as wide open at the end of the spring as it was coming in.
    The first is to say that he didn’t wow Dana Holgorsen to the point that he’s willing to say he’s the leader going into summer drills, but that would be shortsighted considering from where Moore came.

    April 13, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos