SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - In front of a hotel ballroom packed with fans who stood, applauded robustly and in the end chanted "Stewwwww," Bill Stewart was officially introduced the 32nd football coach at West Virginia University today.
The announcement ended not only an 18-day search for a replacement to new Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez, but it ended a long night of emotion and celebration in which the search committee reached its final decision.
"I've been interviewing, I'd say, a couple of weeks," said Stewart, 55, casting a glance at Athletic Director Ed Pastilong, who made the final decision in a brief meeting with fellow West Virginia administrators at the Scottsdale Plaza Resort team hotel after midnight - just a few hours removed from the Mountaineers' rousing 48-28 upset of Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
Pastilong, President Mike Garrison, Chief of Staff Craig Walker and Assistant Athletic Director Mike Parsons got Board of Governors chairman Stephen Goodwin and decided they had seen enough of the associate head coach, tight ends coach and special teams coach who had spent the previous two weeks as the official and unofficial interim head coach.
"The decision was made by what I like to term a group of wise men," Stewart joked. "I felt in my heart they would make the right decision for West Virginia University. I just happened to be the lucky guy."
Pastilong offered the job, Stewart accepted within seconds, and 10 minutes later they agreed to a term sheet: five years at $800,000 annually with incentives, or roughly 60 percent less than Rodriguez last earned.