West Virginia Football: In Bill Stewart We Trust?

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West Virginia Football: In Bill Stewart We Trust?
Head Mentor Bill Stewart

With the win over the University of Pittsburgh last Saturday in the “Backyard Brawl” West Virginia University moved to 13-7 against Pitt in the last 20 meetings and 6-4 over the last 10.

Bill Stewart improved to 2-1 against WVU’s greatest rival with the Mountaineers’ 35-10 victory.

Bill Stewart has rallied his team to three consecutive victories, the most impressive being the victory over Pitt last weekend. The amount of goodwill generated within Mountaineer Nation regarding a resounding victory against Pitt can never be underestimated.

Bill Stewart has posted his fourth signature win as head coach of the Mountaineer football team.

After the loss to the University of Connecticut this year, many, including myself, wrote off the Mountaineer football team. Stewart, his staff and the players on his team have shown everyone the error in that negative perception.

Many in Mountaineer Nation consider the three-year period from 2005 through the Fiesta Bowl victory in 2007 to be the “Golden Age” of WVU football. WVU posted three straight 11-win seasons during that span.

With Stewart’s win on Saturday, WVU football stands at 59 victories since the start of the 2005 season. A win on Saturday against Rutgers will bring WVU’s victory total to 60 wins over the last six seasons.

Greg Schiano Rutgers

WVU stands at the precipice of averaging 10 wins a season for the last six seasons—few programs can boast that success over the same period.

Keep in mind that WVU still has a bowl game slated at the end of the season this year. The potential of that bowl becoming a BCS bowl berth is very real.

Stewart and his team need help to be sure; the loss to UConn still keeps WVU’s immediate future in doubt. Mountaineer fans find themselves in the precarious position of rooting for the South Florida Bulls on Saturday.

Should USF beat UConn in their matchup Saturday, WVU will represent the Big East in the BCS.

What the UConn loss does not continue to hold is questions of Stewart’s long-range future.

Stewart has a dark cloud hanging over his program in the form of an NCAA investigation. The outcome of that investigation could spell significant trouble for Stewart and his staff.

Still, Stewart has proven his ability to win football games as the head coach at WVU. More importantly, Stewart’s players have demonstrated their willingness to follow his lead.

As fans, there are no more important examples of leadership necessary.

*****

The Big East added another member on Monday: The Texas Christian University Horned Frogs are now part of the Big East in all sports. TCU will begin Big East conference play in 2012.

TCU represents the ninth football member for the Big East and does nothing but improve the Big East’s BCS auto-qualification status.

What school the Big East chooses as its 10th football member seems to be a much harder decision. Four teams have been mentioned regularly: Houston, Memphis, Central Florida and Villanova.

Villanova is still a member of the FCS, though, and membership in the Big East would require a move to the FBS. On the surface that seems like a straightforward proposition, but in reality the infrastructure necessary for the move simply does not exist at Villanova.

I believe Villanova will beg off moving to the FBS in football for a few more years. There is simply too much for Villanova to accomplish in such a short period.

Let us not forget the sentiment that the Big East should force Notre Dame’s hand and issue an ultimatum to either join the conference in football or leave the conference completely.

Such an ultimatum would be a serious mistake for the Big East conference—leave Notre Dame right where they are.

It is my opinion that the Big East represents Notre Dame’s “golden parachute” regarding conference alignment. I believe that Notre Dame is doing its part to protect the Big East behind the scenes.

Who should be the next member of the Big East?

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Notre Dame carries a lot of influence; they will stay independent in football for as long as they can. Had Notre Dame truly wanted to join a conference in football I believe they would have done so last fall before the Big Ten added Nebraska.

In a few years, should Notre Dame’s ability to maintain its independent status in football evaporate, I see Notre Dame potentially joining with Villanova. That would bring the Big East to 12 football teams.

That brings us back to the question of who will be the 10th football team to join the Big East.

Of the three schools mentioned above, Houston represents the highest-rated BCS School. How much that status affects the decision is anybody’s guess.

Houston would certainly add to the Big East presence in the Lone Star State and would add a natural rival for its newest member, TCU.

Should the Big East add two schools from Texas the obvious recruiting windfall could be significant. The quality of high school football in the state of Texas approaches legendary status.

UCF would do the same for South Florida and would solidify the Big East presence in another breeding ground for top recruits.

Memphis initially appears to be on the outside looking in, representing the school with the least possibility of garnering an invitation.

My vote, if I had one, is for the addition of Houston. Securing the Big East’s presence in Texas is too attractive to ignore.

Should the Big Ten decide to raid the Big East for additional members, the Big East could still look to UCF and Memphis to replace the members the Big Ten takes.

Having solidified their BCS status with TCU and Houston, the question of adding members to maintain 10 teams is the paramount issue.

Whatever direction the Big East takes in the coming months, it will certainly be an interesting story to follow.

The predicted demise of the Big East seems greatly exaggerated at this point. Apparently, the Big East knew what they were doing all along; imagine that.

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