WVU: The Case For Bill Stewart

Tim McGheeCorrespondent IIIJune 24, 2009

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 27:  Head coach Bill Stewart of the West Virginia Mountaineers celebrates after a 31-30 victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels after the Meineke Car Care Bowl on December 27, 2008 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

It's humorous, at times downright funny.  

I've discovered, later than most, obviously, that many West Virginia fans refer to head coach Bill Stewart as “Luther,” in reference to actor Jerry Van Dyke’s hilarious portrayal of an assistant college football coach on ABC’s television show-of-the-past “Coach.” 

There could be a lot to the Luther comparison, since polish is not one of coach Stewart’s strong suits. 

However, Rich Rod was the personification of polish, or sex appeal, depending on your persuasion, and he’s not very endearing to West Virginian hearts.

The point I’m making is this: polish can be acquired, but character, the good Bill Stewart type of character, you really have to work at.

I’m re-reading the late Gary Shaw’s Meat on the Hoof, the 1972 expose of the unpleasant side of University of Texas football as it was played in the mid sixties. 

Those Longhorn coaches, and others in the Southwest Conference and other major conferences at the time, were very polished, but they’d subject their fourth teamers and below to unimaginable “s**t” drills to beat them physically and psychologically until the boys would voluntarily give up their athletic scholarships. 

No accusations originate here, but there is one coach whom I am completely confident would not allow "s**t" drills to happen: Bill Stewart.

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Another thing that coach Stewart can be credited for is the astute use of technology.  I’ve been following Luther’s tweets on Twitter for a couple of months.  I can say the West Virginia coach is getting his point across. 

He uses Twitter to augment well the head coach's bully pulpit, giving regular shout-outs to other coaches as well as congratulating his players and other coaches’ players. 

You also learn from his tweets that he digs classic rock; I mean, Good Golly, Miss Molly classic.  But, coach Stewart is in his best Lutheresque state when he’s proclaiming his Mountaineers Rules for Living. 

Here are samples paraphrased:

The world doesn’t care about your self-esteem.  Accomplish something, then feel good about yourself. (Flies in the face of pop psychology, doesn’t it?)

Before you were born, your parents were not as boring as you think they are. (Oh, so true.)

Be kind to nerds.  Chances are you’ll be working for one someday. (As a lifelong nerd, this is my favorite.)


Television is not real life.  People actually leave the coffee shop and go to their jobs. (I didn’t know Coach Stewart watched reruns of "Friends.")

Bill Stewart’s Father's Day greeting was similar to his post-Muffler Bowl soliloquy.  He wants his Mountaineers to be great husbands, great dads, great men of society, and men of faith.  Seriously, who can argue with that?

Apparently, many.  Pundits continue to remind us how goofy Stewart is, so much so they proclaim that in December 2007 no FBS school would have hired him as head coach. 

They point to his losing record at Virginia Military, then they cite his staring-at-the-clouds silent meltdown against East Carolina as well as the mismanagement in the Cincinnati game.

I suggest we look to this year.  All the 2009 Mountaineers lack is swagger.  I’m confident the WVU coaching staff will bring back that sway and surprise a few folks this season.  And, already, Stewart has the propensity to win games he absolutely has to win.  He’s 2-0 in bowls.  That's just in 2008. 

So, the next time Luther goes off on national television after a big victory and you feel like you want to look down and paw the turf, go to the Amazon website and order a copy of Meat on the Hoof. 

Or, better yet, go back on line to the newspaper stories of December 2007 and January 2008 and read again all about the sophisticated Rich Rodriguez.

Talk to me about the character of Bill Stewart and true West Virginia pride.  Then, accomplish something, and feel good about it.