I know from experience that there are a lot of UK fans in West Virginia. Probably because the only other options are WVU and Marshall, but still. If you are one of those displaced members of BBN, finding yourself in Huntington, Charleston, Parkersburg, or even as far north as Morgantown, well then hat’s off to you. You’re surrounded by nutjobs.
In Kentucky, we pride ourselves as being, according to Dickie V, the most passionate fanbase in sports. And rightfully so. But fans of West Virginia University are not far behind. Sometimes they can get a little carried away (like when they throw quarters during a basketball game against Louisville), but they all love the Mountaineers just about as strongly as we love our Wildcats.
It’s unfortunate, then, to hear that former football coach Bill Stewart passed away yesterday at only 59 years old. I saw firsthand the admiration that the state had for Stewart when he was hired as head coach, and even though he resigned amid controversy in 2011, there was never any real doubt that he was a fundamentally decent man.
According to ESPN’s Brian Bennett:
But if the worst thing you could say about Bill Stewart was that he didn’t spend every waking minute breaking down film or yelling at his assistants, so be it. He was a people person, through and through. On one of my first spring visits, we sat in his office talking for more than 90 minutes even though he had to attend a high school coaches’ clinic that was underway. He asked me more questions than the other way around. On another visit, I was scheduled to drive back to Pittsburgh at the end of the day. Stewart worried that I would be driving into storms and kept checking the weather reports throughout the day. He asked me to let him know that I got back safely that night. How many BCS conference coaches would do that?
But that’s how Stewart was, a genuinely nice and thoughtful person. His players — some of whom, like Noel Devine, had wildly different backgrounds — clearly loved him as a father figure. Players, media members and others who knew him got used to receiving daily inspirational text messages from Stewart while he was coaching.
It’s really just too bad that Bill couldn’t enjoy his post-headcoaching days just a little bit longer. His passing might not affect us directly, and we may loathe most Mountaineer fans (there are a couple decent ones, trust me), but we can still show some decency in remembering the man that Bill Stewart was.
Rest easy, Coach.