West Virginia's Stewart stews, but in private

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Stew might stew.

But, you won't see him boil over on the sideline.

West Virginia coach Bill Stewart says there is nothing to be gained by getting in the face of a player, ranting and raving at them when they fumble.

He is more apt to pull a player aside, put both arms around his shoulders and deliver a private message.

West Virginia can lay claim to one of college football's wackiest statistics this season -- the Mountaineers have a winning record (3-1), even though they have more turnovers (14) than punts (12). But Stewart does not pitch a fit.

"Not going to see it from me," Stewart said.

"These guys have to play for you, not in spite of you."

Stewart admitted the turnovers have hurt, and they have given him a headache that has lasted much of the season.

He has put the team through additional ball-security drills, phoned other coaches and former coaches around the country to get some insight on the best remedy for a chronic case of butterfingers.

But, as he said, "We will never be unhappy with a victory for the West Virginia University football program."

And, even as the turnover margin going into the Mountaineers' Big East Conference opener Saturday at Syracuse is at minus-8, the team's won/loss record is at plus-3, with the only loss at Auburn.

It must be difficult for Stewart not to blow his top, right?

Not for this guy.

Seems this 56-year-old son of a pipefitter from New Martinsville, W.Va., learned everything about being a leader from the two greatest leaders he ever had -- his father and mother.

"My dad was one of the finest men I have ever met in my life," Stewart said. "And, all he ever had to do was raise his voice at me and it killed me, it just killed me. My dad never put a hand on me. Ever. I tell stories that I got taken to the woodshed, but that was my mom. My mom would drop you like a bad habit in a second, and she's where I got my fire from.

"My father, he was a tremendous teacher and a tremendous man of character. He was a leader on the construction site and he knew how to deal with people and the superintendents always picked him out to be the boss.

"That's where I learned it; that's where I learned how to communicate and talk to people."

There are times that Stewart might blow off a bit of steam, but no one other than the team sees it.

Then, his voice hits a crescendo for a message is best relayed by a heightened tone and the point is bolstered by the hint of a holler.

"I yell at them, I do," Stewart said, "but, the deal is this: To stand and scream at a guy ... to scream at them 'catch the ball!' Well, that is not coaching.

"Tell them to catch the front cone of the ball, catch the small part of the ball, the sphere, the point of the ball.

"Don't just stand there and scream 'catch the ball!' because that's not coaching, that is just total harassment, and I am not going to coach like that."

Colin Dunlap can be reached at cdunlap@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1459. First Published October 7, 2009 4:00 AM


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