The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

May 22, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: Bill Stewart is missed, remembered

MORGANTOWN — It was Monday, the first anniversary of Bill Stewart’s sudden death while playing the 16th hole of a charity golf tournament with West Virginia University’s former athletic director and his former boss, Ed Pastilong.

As you can imagine, Stewart was talking as he stood in the rough that day just seconds before his heart would stop beating, some say from a heart attack. Others wonder if it might not have more to do with his dismissal as WVU’s head football coach despite a winning record and being the author of the most relevant victory in the school’s history.

One minute he was telling one of those stories that would entertain you no matter how many times you had heard them — and rest assured Pastilong had heard this one numerous times — and then he was gone.

You thought about that all year and about the football program at West Virginia, as well you should on such an anniversary, for certainly the jury is out on where that program is today ... and you allowed yourself at this moment to wonder just what is important in an athletic program and coach.

As you thought back upon the death of Bill Stewart, you thought of the things that were being said about him.

“I would fight a war for that man,” guard Jeff Braun said as the mechanics of passing the torch from one regime to another began.

Braun always was a rational sort, an offensive lineman who put football in its place as part of a well-rounded university program, a player who would have to work and scrap to get the NFL chance he now has.

“I know day in and day out for the past six years that I’ve known the man, he takes a step in the right direction and he treats each and every one of his players like he was his son,” Braun said a day after Stewart died. “I’ve seen that firsthand.

“He would tell you things, and they wouldn’t hit you until you went home,” Braun continued. “He cared about you as a person.”

“Coach Stew changed my life. He will be missed and remembered always in my heart,” former fullback Owen Schmitt tweeted that day. “Thanks for always believing in me. I feel like I lost a father.”

“He pounded in our head to be great Mountaineers but challenged us to be better men in the community, church and school,” was linebacker Anthony Leonard’s memory.

The transformation over the course of a year was away from a football program that was part of the West Virginia fiber, that represented the people of the state and that produced a game with the taste of a pepperoni roll and a beer, to the point that the coaching staff had to teach itself — to its credit — what the state is about and pass it on to its players.

Good ol’ Stew, the country boy coach who was in love with his home state and that state’s university, was the man who won the most important football game in the school’s history, upsetting Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl after Rich Rodriguez had turned his back on the program and sneaked off to Michigan following the most devastating defeat in WVU history.

Stewart pulled off that upset, then took a program that was supposed to crumble with Rodriguez gone and won nine games for three consecutive seasons, something that always had been a creditable standard.

True, it became evident Bill Stewart would not build a contender for a national championship, which led to his dismissal, but as it turned out two seasons later the victories were down to seven. The losses were embarrassing, including one in a minor bowl to Syracuse ... and rather than Stewart spreading his own brand of sunshine, there now were clouds of doubt.

“To be part of this is something no one can know about unless you live and experience it; it’s who we are; it’s what we are,” Stewart told me three years ago, speaking of the WVU program. “These people came to these hills for a better life. We are one big clan in this state, whether you’re a miner, a construction worker, a banker — everyone cares about everyone.

“We don’t have a pro team. We tell all our players — don’t you ever forget the pride of playing before the hardest-working, God-fearing, most wonderful people you’ll ever meet in your life. That’s what we are; that’s who we are.”

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • HERTZEL COLUMN- Summer, Alabama will be used to get WVU’s mind right

    The ink had barely dried on the final reports out of West Virginia’s spring practice when thoughts turned forward toward the lazy, hazy days of late summer, days that will bring us into football season with a game that can either change the entire image of WVU football or sour it even further.

    April 21, 2014

  • Arrest warrant out for WVU recruit

    West Virginia University’s newest men’s basketball recruit, Tarik Phillip, has an order out for his arrest in North Carolina, according to a story in The Dominion-Post, which said three Gaston County Magistrate office spokespersons confirmed.

    April 20, 2014

  • WVU baseball powers past Oklahoma, 9-5

    The WVU baseball team tied a season high with 18 hits to defeat Oklahoma, 9-5, on Saturday afternoon at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The win gives the Mountaineers their second Big 12 series win of the season and improves the overall record to 19-16 and 4-7 in conference play. Oklahoma drops to 25-16 overall and 5-7 in Big 12 play.

    April 20, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: Under pressure, NCAA decides to change rules

    At first glance, it appears that they do not go hand-in-hand, a pair of rules changes the NCAA’s Legislative Council approved this week, sending them off for what seems to be smooth sailing toward becoming rules.

    April 18, 2014

  • Means, WVU baseball shut out Oklahoma

    Junior left-hander John Means of the WVU baseball team threw eight shutout innings and the Mountaineers had a five-run first inning en route to a 7-0 victory over Oklahoma on Thursday evening at L. Dale Mitchell Park.
    The Mountaineers (18-15, 3-6 Big 12) broke a six-game Big 12 losing streak after being swept by TCU and Oklahoma State in back-to-back weekends. WVU had 16 hits and did not make an error for the second-straight game.

    April 18, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Dr. Graber disagrees with Gee’s stance on Turnbull firing

    Dr. Stephen Graber, an associate professor at the West Virginia University School of Medicine, is among the latest WVU teachers to deplore Oliver Luck’s firing of veteran wrestling coach Craig Turnbull.
    He raised some significant questions about that issue last Monday in a meeting of the WVU Faculty Senate.

    April 18, 2014

  • Huggins signs junior college guard

    Coach Bob Huggins completed his 2014-15 West Virginia University recruiting class on Wednesday and deemed it a success after receiving a signed letter of intent from junior college guard Tarik Phillip.
    Phillip joins Jevon Carter of Maywood, Ill., and Daxter Miles of Baltimore’s Dunbar High and out of Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts in the 2014-15 recruiting class.

    April 17, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU gymnast hopes to stick her final landing

    The reaction, one suspects, was the same as most people who see either a picture of West Virginia University gymnast Hope Sloanhoffer or meet her for the first time in person — a quick double take, maybe even stumbling over the first few words of an introduction.

    April 17, 2014

  • FURFARI COLUMN: Comparing pay of coaches and professors

    Stringing together some odds and ends which may be of interest to you:
    • A beautiful lady came up to my table last Sunday at brunch in the Village of Heritage Point’s main dining room with a message.

    April 17, 2014

  • 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

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