By Bob Hertzel
For the Times West Virginian
Bill Stewart says it’s the American way.
That is why the heat directed at him that grows with each passing day on the Internet through message boards and blogs is all right with him.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt, either, that he doesn’t look at it.
Stewart’s sin, which so many online “experts” believe deserves capital punishment, at least in the sense of his career as head football coach of West Virginia University, is to lose a pair of football games, games that maybe he should have won.
Now the penalty for that probably should be losing the Big East championship that he so covets, not to lose his job or execute his coaching staff, but these are days of instant gratification and where anyone with a computer can become a very poor imitation of Jim Murray or Red Smith.
Stewart’s situation is drawing more attention in West Virginia that President Obama’s visit to Indonesia. You’d think whether or not the Mountaineers won a football game is the equivalent of whether or not we find a cure of cancer.
Listen to someone named Aaron Hawley, a graduate of Morgantown High who got his degree from Maryland, blogging on SBNation.
His blog begins:
“Ever since being named West Virginia’s head football coach in the intoxicating aftermath of beating Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl three years ago, Bill Stewart has been one of the most divisive figures in Mountaineer Nation. From the very beginning, some were displeased with his hire. (Ken Kendrick, owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks and powerful and influential Mountaineer Booster, once called Stewart a house painter while Rich Rodriguez was ‘a great architect.’)”
After an excess of verbage not seen since “War and Peace” was written, this is conclusion Hawley reaches:
“While Mountaineer fans have cried for Stewart’s firing since the day after he was hired, it has almost exclusively for the first two reasons. Those are bunk. If Stewart is fired, it won’t be for not going undefeated, and it won’t be for the play-calling or new offensive scheme. Nor should it be. That said, if this is the last year for Coach Stew, it won’t be for what happens on the field, but what happens in the locker room. It’s ironic, since Bill Stewart won this job based on one speech prior to the Fiesta Bowl. ‘Leave no doubt,’ he bellowed at his troops, and they responded by playing the game of their lives. I just hope we can see that kind of performance one more time before the chorus for Stewart’s firing drowns it out. Because if Bill Stewart were fired today, I’d have a whole lot of doubt about whether it had been the right thing to do.”
And then there was this headline on the site “Bleacher Report.”
“Should Stay or Should He Go?”
Jeff Woollard writes this about Stewart:
“Should Oliver Luck remove head coach Bill Stewart at the end of the 2010 football season?
“Losing back-to-back games to Syracuse and Connecticut have placed Bill Stewart on the hottest of hot seats at West Virginia University. It’s safe to say that
Stewart is doing his part to increase global warming.
“By their on field performance, the football team has taken the future of Stewart’s tenure out of Stewart’s hands. Athletic Director Oliver Luck is now in sole possession of Stewart’s future as head coach of the Mountaineer football team.”
And his conclusion is this:
“An educated guess is that Stewart remains for the 2011 football season, and replaces both (offensive coordinator Jeff) Mullen and (offensive line coach Dave) Johnson. The Mountaineer faithful can rest assured that Luck will be instrumental in the search and hiring of their replacements. Just do not expect Luck to do so publicly.”
Having read this drivel, it was time to bring it up to Stewart, ask him his reaction to the outcry over his part in his team’s performance this year.
“It’s on the Internet?” he asked. “On the message boards, or what. I don’t blog. I don’t know how to answer that.”
But he tried to.
“If I don’t know about it, it certainly hasn’t bothered me. I just don’t have that much time to give to that, so I have no comment.”
Does it trouble him, though?
“I’m sure there’s a lot of things being said. That’s the right of Americans. They can voice their opinion.”
Good ol’ Stew, red, white and blue to the core. In fact, if you look closely this weekend against Cincinnati, he and his staff plan to be wearing camouflage caps to honor America’s veterans as a Veterans Day celebration.
Hope nothing happens to make him blow his top.
E-mail Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org.