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January 3, 2008

West Virginia promotes Stewart to head coach

MORE: West Virginia overpowers OU | Schmitt breaks game open | Another BCS failure for Stoops
Box score | Past Fiesta Bowl results

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - Bill Stewart was promoted to head coach of West Virginia on Thursday, hours after leading the Mountaineers to a stunning victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.

Stewart was introduced in the morning as he and his team were preparing to return home. He was appointed interim coach in mid-December after Rich Rodriguez bolted for Michigan.

Stewart's five-year contract will pay $800,000 a year with incentives. Rodriguez signed a seven-year deal in August worth almost $2 million a year.

"Last night, we saw all the characteristics of a head football coach - leadership, loyalty, courage," athletic director Ed Pastilong said less than 12 hours after the 48-28 victory by the No. 11 Mountaineers.

The hotel ballroom was packed with boosters, players and West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin.

"I'm West Virginia born, West Virginia bred, a West Virginian all my life, really," Stewart said when introduced.

Stewart said late Wednesday he hadn't even been interviewed for the job.

"I don't have a lot of experience in these negotiations and things. That's my agent right down there," he said, pointing to his wife, Karen.

Stewart had the backing of the team, including Pat White. The quarterback began stumping for Stewart on the field after running for 150 yards and throwing for 176 and two touchdowns in the victory over the No. 3 Sooners on Wednesday night.

"He deserves it," White said. "A great man. A great coach. All the players respect him and all the players love him. You couldn't ask for a better man to lead us to victory today."

Fullback Owen Schmitt, who scored on a 57-yard run, called Stewart the "glue" that kept the Mountaineers together during a rocky month.

"We're a family," Schmitt said. "That's why we prevailed."

Stewart came to West Virginia as quarterbacks coach in January 2000 after two seasons as offensive coordinator in the Canadian Football League.

Don Nehlen, the former Mountaineers coach who hired Stewart, said Thursday he was glad his former assistant had landed the job.

"He's just such a good person and the kids love him," Nehlen said. "It's such a good fit with the program."

A message left for Rodriguez early Thursday was not immediately returned.

Steward, a New Martinsville native, was head coach at VMI from 1994-96, compiling an 8-25 record. He also had stints as an assistant at Salem College, North Carolina, Marshall, William & Mary, Navy, Arizona State and Air Force. Stewart was forced to resign at VMI after it was alleged he used a racial slur.

Stewart was a three-year letterman and team captain for Fairmont State, which won the West Virginia Conference championship in 1974. He graduated from Fairmont State in 1975 and received a master's degree in health and physical education from WVU two years later.

Stewart began his coaching career at Fairmont as a student assistant coach for one season before becoming an assistant coach at Sistersville High School in 1975.

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