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West Virginia Football: Bill Stewart Steps Up Like The Man He Has Always Been

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West Virginia Football: Bill Stewart Steps Up Like The Man He Has Always Been
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
Bill Stewart, ambassador from the state of West Virginia.

It took a few days after the shocking loss at Connecticut for Bill Stewart to say it, but say it he did.

Bill Stewart has taken full responsibility for everything that has to do with West Virginia as they are on the gridiron. He's gone so far as to call himself, accurately, I might add, "the CEO of football."

With this position of Chief Executive Officer comes the big bucks that he earns to take full responsibility for everything associated with the team, good or bad.

His tidy CEO annual salary of $800,000 makes Bill Stewart and Bill Stewart alone fully accountable for himself, the assistant coaches, the support staff, and the players.

Why didn't Bill Stewart accept this responsibility earlier? No one truly knows. We can only speculate. 

My guess is the head coach was stymied and flummoxed by the poor play this season and by the back-to-back losses in a Big East conference through which West Virginia was supposed to cruise. 

In trying to figure it out why the Mountaineers couldn't find their A game, coach Stewart ignored, not malevolently, to tell his fans and boosters what they wanted to hear: it's my fault and I'm going to fix it, and here's how.

Bill Stewart finally did it, and I knew he would. 

True, in my articles I've been on Stew's tail, questioning his ability to coach college football at the Top 25 level. I've been dogged in my pursuit of answers for why and answers for how he could be better, if that is at all possible.

I've even named a replacement who I think could take WVU back to the 2005-2007 days, that being the University of Houston's Kevin Sumlin.

I've gone that far, but not too far.

I just had a feeling that Bill Stewart is a man in the true sense of the word, that even though the Coach had a few rough days, he would eventually step up as the leader he is.

******

All I know about leadership is what I have learned from my father.

Here's how my father knows.

Yesterday, Nov. 3, 2010, was my father's 90th birthday. Now, there's a goal for which to strive. He's 90 and still pretty much with it. He's happy to make it this far.

Hell, he's just happy to make it past his 22nd birthday.

On Tuesday, it was 68 years ago when my father, a sergeant in the United States Marines, led a platoon of 18-and 19-year-old Marines out of a landing craft and onto a beach on the south Pacific island of Guadalcanal.

Their mission was to build a weather station in the hills of the island and return to the beach three days later to be picked up by a U.S. Navy vessel awaiting them.

My dad's platoon stood on the beach. There was no Navy ship or vessel or bucket within sight.

In fact, for the following 34 days, no Navy. 

Finally, on the 35th day, the Navy showed up.

That's all my dad has told me. For the rest, I hit the Internet.

The Naval Battle of Guadalcanal caught fire during the first week of November 1942. All United States naval craft were diverted from south of the island, where my father's platoon was, to the north to engage the Japanese navy.

To the south of the island, the stranded Marines during those days had enough to keep busy. 

November turned out to be the final month of battle for Guadalcanal.  Sensing they were going to lose the island, the Imperial Army threw everything they had into the battle.  For that reason, Dad and his young fighting men ran and hid and ran and hid some more until the ship arrived.

As his Marines climbed onto the vessel, the United States was only days away from winning Guadalcanal.

Midway. Okinawa. Iwo Jima. Those are a few of the most famous battles the United States won in the Pacific Theater during World War II.

The Battle of Guadalcanal is not quite as well-known, but its importance cannot be overly emphasized. The island was the pivot point for the war. It was the Japanese's way station on its way to take over North America. As well, the United States needed the island from which the rest of the campaign was launched.

Guadalcanal was a big victory in a big war, and my father was in the thick of it.

******

My dad ended his military tenure during the Korean War as a badass U.S. Marine Corps drill instructor at Parris Island. However, it's interesting that Dad and Bill Stewart share some traits. They're both affable, like to answer questions with stories, and squint with their jaws agape.

That could be why I was happy to hear Stew had turned the corner and exercised his leadership.

It's difficult to say what's going to happen to West Virginia football from this day forward. I can see WVU splitting the final four Big East games to make it 7-5. Ironically. that winning record won't be enough to save his job as coach.

I can't see Bill Stewart coaching the Mountaineers, but I think he's primed for another role for the athletic department. Most any role. He is a fine ambassador for the state and the university.

At 7-5, it looks like I've written off the team's 2010 season. Maybe. So, let's pose the question often asked in the sports circles:

Any coach can get any team up for any one game. If you had to pick that one coach to coach that one game...for your life...who would that coach be?

Thinking back to the Fiesta Bowl, I'd strangely put Bill Stewart on the short list.  Jim Tressel would probably be number one, but if Stew had to, he'd leave no doubt.

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