Stewart situation is a disappointing one

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Bill Stewart’s short tenure at West Virginia was marked by a lot of criticisms from the 60,000 head coaches sitting in the stands of Mountaineer Field on Saturdays.

Many didn’t think the man knew what he was doing, even though Stewart can lay claim to over 30 years of coaching experience at 12 different locations.

There were those who gnashed their teeth at then-offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen’s play calling, partially blaming Stewart in the process for not firing Mullen. But Stewart also deserved credit for keeping defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and hiring several solid defensive assistants when he started his time as head coach.

Yes, there were plenty of criticisms of Stewart. Some were justified, others not so much. But Stewart’s saving grace has always been his character. No one could honestly say Stewart was a bad guy who didn’t care about his players.

He is a great family man, a good husband to his wife and father to both his son, Blaine, and the sons he coaches on the field.

Which is why the latest allegations that Stewart and/or his wife may have leaked information about Holgorsen are disappointing.

It would be more disappointing if they turned out to be true.

Such crookedness would go completely against what Stewart has stood for his entire life. Upon accepting the job at WVU, Stewart claimed he wanted his players to be great “fathers, husbands, men of faith and contributors to society.” He said his handshake was his word.

Normally, clichés such as those are scoffed at in this day and age, but there was something old-fashioned, and, yes, a bit cheesy, about Stewart that made those promises more believable.

Stewart and Jim Tressel’s situation at Ohio State are hardly similar, but they are nevertheless two individuals who have been known to be upstanding — and believable — guys. One has already crashed and burned mightily. If the words of former Pitsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Colin Dunlap are true, Stewart might not be far behind.

Stewart’s professional reputation would be tarnished as well. Stewart will never be regarded as one of the great WVU coaches, but if the Mountaineers achieved any kind of success this season, he would be remembered as the coach who successfully bridged the gap between Rich Rodriguez and Dana Holgorsen with little drop-off.

Instead, we have this situation.

To believe in the coach-in-waiting move wholly was probably naïve; a deeper look under the surface shows something insidious.

“In retrospect, we can all second guess.  Would I do it again? I don’t know,” said WVU athletic director Oliver Luck on a Pittsburgh’s 93.7  The Fan earlier today about his coach-in-waiting situation.

The melodrama of the past two weeks would suggest turning that phrase from “I don’t know” to simply “no”.

But there were opportunities to say “no” the first time. Stewart could have resigned at the end of the 2010 season as his “amended contract” gave him the option to do. Or, Luck simply could have fired Stewart without cause and paid a handsome buyout of about $2.5 million.

There was money involved, so it’s pretty obvious what the answer was going to be. Whether that answer was mutually agreed upon among Stewart, Holgorsen and Luck is still unclear.

Still, there’s a price for every decision. And not all of them amount to dollars and cents.