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WVU players: Stewart 'told us to move forward'

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By Tony Dobies
Sunday, June 12, 2011
 

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Bill Stewart stood before the West Virginia football team Saturday morning for what is expected to be the last time.

The entire team was not in town, but players said a positive and professional Stewart told them he resigned as head coach because it was best for the team.

Stewart surrendered his post Friday night amid a university-led investigation into the football program. The probe focused on potential leaks to the media regarding accusations that then-offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen was involved in alcohol-related incidents, including at least one at a West Virginia casino.

"He said if there was ever a time he was hurting the program he would step down," said senior defensive end Bruce Irvin. "(Stewart) is a good man. I've got a lot of love for him, and I hope he continues to keep in touch with the program."

West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck said the university could not substantiate rumors surrounding the program but accepted Stewart's resignation nonetheless. Holgorsen was elevated to head coach.

"The meeting was brief," junior offensive lineman Jeff Braun. "(Stewart) took it the way I would think he would.

"I would fight a war for that man. ... But he told us to move forward."

Stewart told the team that he would be in the stands at home games next season. He also told players he was there if they needed him.

"It's good to have the drama over with. We can concentrate on football again," said receiver Tyler Urban, a former Norwin High School standout. "We're taking it in stride and pressing on."

Braun said he will miss Stewart's odd yet successful motivational techniques and his passion for his players after they graduated.

"His job was to win games, but he's more worried about what's going to happen to you after football," Braun said.

Holgorsen, hired in December as offensive coordinator and coach-in-waiting who would succeed Stewart in 2012, also spoke briefly with the team. West Virginia will have a team meeting Tuesday with the rest of the football staff when the entire team returns to town.

"I'm so happy that it's finally over with, and we have one head coach now," Irvin said. "I have a lot of confidence in Dana, and I know he's going do the right things to bring this program back to where it used to be."

Holgorsen started contacting defensive players late Friday.

"He asked if I was on board. I told him, 'This is my senior season. It's a big year for me, so I'm on board,' " Irvin said, adding that he hasn't talked to a player who didn't have a positive outlook. "He's got all the players' attention."

Four players who spoke to the media yesterday admitted the coaching situation had become a distraction, at least for the past week. They said the players would speak to each other about the rumors but never during workouts.

"It's an open wound right now, but winning solves everything," Irvin said. "When the fall comes, and we start winning these games, the talk will die down."

Counting Holgorsen's hire, this is the third drama-filled coaching situation West Virginia's seniors have experienced. In 2007, former coach Rich Rodriguez left for Michigan.

"From my experience, I had Rich Rod for a semester, and then he was gone," said senior cornerback Keith Tandy. "But everything still worked out."

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