The news, abrupt and tragic, arrived this afternoon: former West Virginia coach Bill Stewart had suffered a fatal heart attack.
Stewart, who spent a decade coaching at WVU – three as the Mountaineers’ head coach – was widely regarded as a man of high character and a true West Virginian. A native of New Martinsville, he’d spent decades working his way up the college coach ranks before landing at the state’s flagship school.
Stewart will forever be remember for guiding the Mounties to an enormous upset victory over Oklahoma in the 2008 Fiesta Bowl while serving as interim coach. He was hired as head coach shortly thereafter.
"He deserves it," WVU star quarterback Pat White said at the time. "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."
Stewart went 28-12 as the ‘Eers head coach. And while the fanbase at times was split over whether the Mountaineers should – and ultimately did – go in another direction, Stewart was always universally liked and respected in the West Virginia and college football communities. As ESPN’s Brian Bennett wrote today, Stewart’s legacy will be defined by more than wins and losses.
Stewart reportedly passed away quickly after suffering a massive heart attack while golfing with former WVU athletic director Ed Pastilong this afternoon in New Martinsville. He’s survived by wife Karen, whom, in his classic folksy style, he perpetually referred to as “my bride,” and son Blaine.
"Coach Stewart was a rock-solid West Virginian and a true Mountaineer," athletic director Oliver Luck said in a statement. "His enthusiasm and passion for his state's flagship university was infectious. We join all Mountaineers in mourning his passing."