West Virginia's Stewart ready to talk

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- On Tuesday evening in the West Virginia football facility, head coach Bill Stewart stood behind the same podium he has many times, fielding questions and providing answers.

This time was different, though -- it was the first time he did it as a lame duck.

A week ago, it was announced by West Virginia athletics director Oliver Luck that Dana Holgorsen, the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, will join the Mountaineers' staff in 2011 as offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting. Holgorsen will assume the head coaching position in 2012 as Stewart is given the opportunity -- if he wants it -- to move into a different role within the university.

At a news conference the following day, Luck gave a scathing indictment of the current state of the program.

"I didn't believe we had an opportunity to win a national championship with the direction of the program," Luck said on Thursday. "At the end of the day, results matter. And we weren't getting the results."

When Stewart faced questions Tuesday, for the first time since the shift in power was announced, he initially attempted to fend off the events of the last week and steer the questioning toward the Mountaineers' Champs Sports Bowl game Dec. 28 against North Carolina State.

"I have not seen any distractions," Stewart said of the bowl preparation. "I can honestly say that with great pride. Young people are resilient and they follow the lead of their head coach."

For Stewart, though, not all the questions were that easy.

A news conference has been scheduled for 2 p.m. today behind that very podium where Stewart, Luck and Holgorsen will all appear together publicly for the first time.

Stewart was asked Tuesday if, in an effort to limit distractions for this upcoming bowl, a news conference with those three would throw this team's focus off-kilter.

"I think you all want some answers and I am all in," Stewart said. "So I think, let's get it out in the open and I am good to go and can't wait until [the news conference]."

Stewart was then asked if he signed off on being a part of the news conference today and quickly replied, "You bet."

West Virginia's players were available to the media Tuesday for the first since Holgorsen's appointment was announced. As a horde of questioners huddled around sophomore quarterback Geno Smith, he swatted away each question that involved Stewart's coaching situation with the one-word answer -- "pass."

Smith, however, answered all questions that pertained to on-field performance or the impending Champs Sports Bowl.

There has been some speculation that Stewart could retire or resign after the Champs Sports Bowl because of a tough working environment he will face next season.

Luck has made it known that, as offensive coordinator, Holgorsen will have full autonomy over the offense next season.

Stewart knocked down rumors that he will not be the head coach in 2011.

"I will be the football coach in 2011," Stewart said. "That's my marching orders, that is what I am going with and I am in on it and ready to go. And after this bowl is complete, I will then begin preparing by finishing recruiting and getting our offseason program in gear."

NOTE -- Starting senior cornerback Brandon Hogan officially has been ruled out of the Champs Sports Bowl with a knee injury. ... Fall semester grades were to be finalized late last night for West Virginia students and Stewart hinted that the football team could sustain some causalities for the bowl game, saying, "There could be a couple guys out." Stewart is expected to announce today if any players will miss the bowl because of grade issues.

Colin Dunlap: cdunlap@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1459.


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