The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

College Sports

December 22, 2010

Blocking out the distractions

Stewart and the Mountaineers prepare for Champs Sports Bowl

West Virginia coach Bill Stewart tried to go about business as usual with the Mountaineers prepping for their matchup with North Carolina State in the Champs Sports Bowl Dec. 28 in Orlando, Fla.

But these are anything but normal days.

In the last week, WVU has hired Dana Holgorsen as the new offensive coordinator and he will take over for Stewart, who has been given one more year at the helm.

Not exactly business as usual.

“I really haven’t seen any distractions, and I can honestly say that with great pride,” Stewart said at a press conference following Tuesday’s practice. “Young people are resilient, and they follow the lead of their head coach, the coaching staff and the seniors.

“I can honestly tell you that there has not been one distraction that I’ve seen. We’ve worked hard, and we’ve worked fast. We’ve practiced very, very well. I’m really pleased with that. I compliment the Mountaineer football team and the way they’ve been working. Work’s been normal.”

Stewart, Holgorsen and Athletic Director Oliver Luck are scheduled to meet with the media in a joint press conference today at the Puskar Center at 2 p.m.

“I don’t think (it will cause distractions),” Stewart said. “Everyone wants some answers, and I’m all in. I think we should get everything out in the open, and I’m good to go for tomorrow.”

Also, offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen and offensive line coach Dave Johnson are being replaced.

“(Mullen’s been preparing) very professionally, as all of the staff has been,” Stewart said. “I couldn’t be more proud of this coaching staff, and I couldn’t be more proud of these players who have gone out in a typical West Virginia workmanlike fashion and just prepared. We have prepared, and we hope that preparation will lead us to victory. That is why we are practicing so hard. They (the football team) have been an absolute joy.”

Stewart was asked if the West Virginia job would be his last coaching gig.

“I wish I had a crystal ball. I really do,” Stewart said. “After the 2011 season, wherever the good Lord takes me is where I’ll be. I’ve moved my bride many times before.

“Coaching is a nomad business. I’ve been around. Every job I’ve ever taken I have viewed as an advancement and good for me.

“When my son Blaine came around, I had to change priorities. My son is the most important thing in my life right now, and then comes Mountaineer football. After I know how the 2011 season turns out, I’ll decide what to do. (Blaine’s well-being) weighs heavy on my heart. I would not want to be moving my junior or senior year (of high school).

“Again, I don’t have a crystal ball. We’ll just have to wait. I’m just looking forward to after this bowl and how exciting it’s going to be here in 2011. I do believe it’s going to be very exciting.”

Stewart, 28-11 as the head coach at West Virginia, said there is no truth that he would step down as the coach after the bowl.

“I haven’t heard that,” Stewart said. “I will be the football coach in 2011. Those are my marching orders, and I’m in on that and ready to go. After this bowl, I will then begin preparing for 2011. We have to finish recruiting very hard, and we have to get our offseason program in gear. I’m excited about that — our offseason is going to be great.”

Which brought up the subject of recruits.

“I’ve answered every question to the best of my ability and as honestly as I could,” Stewart said. “I’ve been as truthful as I could about any situation — being away from home, adjusting to Morgantown and what college life and football are like.

“I do a pretty good job in the homes. I think our recruiting classes have shown that. We didn’t have a Top 25 class until I became the head coach. Since, we’ve been 24th and 19th. They (recruits and their families) love our graduation rate. They love what we’re doing with the program. The home visits that I have been involved with thus far have been very good.”

The Champs Sports Bowl kicks off at 6:30 p.m.

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