Posted by Adam Jacobi
One of the more intriguing subplots of the Big East this season has been the performance of Bill Stewart at the helm of the West Virginia Mountaineers, and what little effect it's had on his job security. This is the third season of a six-year deal for Stewart, and all things considered, his time in Morgantown hasn't exactly been a failure; his Mountaineers are 27-11 in the last three years, and are playing for their first 10-win season since going 11-2 under Rich Rodriguez in 2007, RichRod's last season there.
And yet, nine wins seems to be Stewart's ceiling, which understandably irks some fans who look at a historically inconsistent Big East and see a conference ripe for regularly allowing double-digit wins to a program like West Virginia's. Stewart hasn't won the conference in his three seasons, though, and having Connecticut represent the league in one of the most lopsided BCS bowls ever while WVU faces an ACC bowl opponent for the third straight season is just a little more than some fans and school administrators want to take.
Hence, then, this report from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that Stewart may be fired if his team loses to 8-4 North Carolina State in the Champs Sports Bowl, and that regardless of the result of the bowl game, the school is already setting its sights on a replacement:
Sources confirmed today that a high-ranking official from West Virginia's athletic department has been in contact with Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen about the head coaching position at West Virginia, even as there is no vacancy.
[...] A source confirmed it is probable Stewart will be fired if West Virginia does not win that bowl game, and could happen regardless of the outcome. A win in the bowl game would give the Mountaineers a 10-win season.
Now, there aren't many coaches with clean disciplinary records who get fired with records like 28-12 -- an even .700 winning percentage -- and what job Stewart takes next would depend strongly on how much of a workload the 58-year-old feels like putting himself through after what an unceremonious departure like this would be.
If the Post-Gazette's other report listed in the aforelinked article -- that if Stewart's offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen is hired as head coach at Kent State , Holgorsen would be hired as the offensive coordinator with the head coaching spot guaranteed for 2012 -- is correct, it's clear that Stewart is operating in an environment that's enormously toxic from a trust and security standpoint. If that's the case, then regardless of whether Stewart wins his bowl game and/or salvages his job with the Mountaineers for another season, he doesn't have his superiors' confidence, and those situations rarely end well.