Coach Bill Stewart
With a father-like personality held by few and a work ethic held by even fewer, New Martinsville, W.Va., native Bill Stewart enters his third full season as West Virginia University’s head football coach.
Stewart hasn’t looked back since hitting the ground running when he was named interim head coach three weeks prior to the 2008 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, preparing and rallying a team, a coaching staff, a school and a state.
After guiding the Mountaineers to a remarkable 48-28 victory against Oklahoma, and arguably the most memorable bowl win in school history, especially under the circumstances, Stewart was named West Virginia University’s 32nd head football coach on January 3, 2008, one day after the impressive victory.
Since then, Stewart has produced consecutive 9-4 seasons, a victory over North Carolina in the Meineke Car Care Bowl in 2008, a berth in the 2010 Konica Minolta Gator Bowl and consecutive Top 25 finishes. Stewart’s nine victories in 2008 marked the most by a first-year Mountaineer coach in school history.
Stewart has coached 20 players to all-BIG EAST accolades in his two seasons and watched quarterback Pat White become the NCAA’s all-time leading rushing quarterback and the first in college football history to win four- straight bowl games as a starting quarterback in 2008.
“Our goals are to win the BIG EAST championship every year,” Stewart says. “We want to be the premier team in the league. We want to be a team of national stature, but we’re going to do it the right way with great student-athletes that buy into the plan. We want great husbands, great dads, great men of society and great men of faith. If all that ties into winning, that means we’ve had a great program.
“I’m going to be judged on the wins. I know that. What I do with these young men’s lives, I’m being judged by the master coach. And that’s where I lay down every night and sleep very well. If that ever changes than I need to get out of it. Winning is very important, it’s our life blood. Doing it the right way, all the time, and being an example for other programs is very important for me.”
Stewart is no stranger to Morgantown, the state of West Virginia or to the college football world as his coaching experiences have been vast and varied.
“I’m very honored, very proud and very humbled to be the 32nd head football coach at this great school,” Stewart says. “I work for the team, the state’s flagship university and for the people of the great state of West Virginia.”
Prior to being named head coach, he spent eight years on the West Virginia staff under WVU coaches Don Nehlen and Rich Rodriguez, working with the Mountaineer tight ends and serving as associate head coach in 2007 after spending the prior seven seasons coaching the quarterbacks. He also had the role of special teams coordinator under Rodriguez.
His lengthy coaching resume began at Fairmont State, where he was a student assistant coach for a season, before becoming an assistant coach at Sistersville (W.Va.) High School in 1975. In 1977, he moved to Salem College, where he was assistant football and head track coach for two seasons. In 1979, he moved to the University of North Carolina (1980); he was later an assistant at Marshall (1980), William & Mary (1981-83), Navy (1984), North Carolina (1985-87), Arizona State (1988-89) and Air Force (1990-93).
In 1994, Stewart became head football coach at VMI, where he was 8-25 over three seasons. His 1995 team was the highest scoring (24.5 ppg) squad in VMI history, and Keydet running back Thomas Haskins set a I-AA rushing record with 5,349 yards.
Stewart came to WVU in January 2000, from the Canadian Football League, where he served as offensive coordinator of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in 1999, tutoring two all-conference receivers and a 1,000-yard rusher. As offensive line coach for the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes in 1998, Stewart’s line blocked for Mike Pringle, the first 2,000-yard rusher in CFL history.
A 1975 education graduate from Fairmont State, where he was a three-year letterman and team captain for the WVIAC champions in 1974, Stewart earned his master’s degree in health and physical education from WVU in 1977.
Highly regarded as one of the “good guys” in the profession, Stewart has had several personal and professional life influences starting with his mother, father and older brother.
“I didn’t come from much, but we had a lot of love,” Stewart says of his upbringing. “We had discipline in our home, but we had much love. My big brother, Ted, was a role model for me as well. He is a great man. He was one of my heroes growing up. My coaches and teachers were also my heroes.
“Professionally, I’ve been so blessed. Don Nehlen, hall of fame coach and the 17th winningest coach; Dick Crum, at UNC, the greatest organizer I’ve ever been around; Gary Tranquill, at UNC, was probably the best football coach I ever worked with and Fisher DeBerry, at Air Force, his enthusiasm was second to none. They’re all great people that I emulated and that I was fortunate to work with. I sure hope all of them rubbed off on me.”
His coaching philosophies and goals are simple, yet in-depth.
“It’s real simple,” Stewart says. “You out-block them, out-tackle them, out-hit them and out-hustle them. If you do that - I’m not into slogans and rah-rah – but if you do that you’ve got a chance to be real successful.
“I’m into looking right through peoples’ eyes and into their hearts. I have limitations. But I’ve been blessed with a great administration that let me hire people that are experts in their field. That being said, they have to have someone who is a leader. From the time I was a little boy, I’ve always stepped to the front. I never stood in the background. I’m going to take that and go. Being a leader and getting things done has always been one of my strong suits.
“Everyone wants to win. Life is about winning and that’s the American way. The winning comes from hard work. In winning, you have to do things the right way. I will never sacrifice the West Virginia standards to win. I’m never going to cheat, never! We’re going to do things the old-fashioned, right way. And that means you out-work them. Just because I don’t jump in someone’s face or curse them, doesn’t mean I’m not intense. Our players and coaches will tell you I get after it when I have to. I don’t like to do that.”
Stewart and his wife, Karen, also a native of New Martinsville, have one son, Blaine.