SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Bill Stewart didn't need an actual job interview. His performance in the 2½ weeks since Rich Rodriguez resigned, punctuated by West Virginia's resounding victory over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl, was enough.
Now he's the coach of the Mountaineers, a promotion for a man who calls himself a "West Virginian all my life."
"I had the longest job interview in America," Stewart joked Thursday, hours after the 48-28 victory over the Sooners and before the team boarded a flight home.
The 55-year-old coach agreed to a five-year contract worth $800,000 a year, plus incentives. The base salary totals $4 million, the same amount West Virginia is seeking in a buyout of the seven-year contract, worth almost $2 million a year, that Rodriguez signed in August.
Stewart was appointed interim coach when Rodriguez left Dec. 16 to coach Michigan. West Virginia formed a search committee that, according to athletic director Ed Pastilong, interviewed "a large number of candidates." Central Michigan coach Butch Jones, a West Virginia native, was considered a leading contender.
But the committee had its eyes on Stewart all along.
|Score! Stewart not only gets a trophy, but a permanent job as well. (US Presswire)|
Gov. Joe Manchin was among the enthusiastic group of boosters who attended the announcement at the Scottsdale resort where the Mountaineers had stayed.
"I couldn't be more happy," Manchin said. "I've watched this team come together and this gentleman right here, Billy Stewart, bring it together. He's the glue. There's not a mother or father watching today that wouldn't be proud to have their son play for this man."
Pastilong called Stewart to his room in the wee hours Thursday to offer him the job. Stewart has not signed a contract but agreed to terms with a handshake.
"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.
"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."