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STEWART OUT AT WVU

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A bizarre six-month odyssey has played out in the West Virginia football program, as Bill Stewart resigned as head coach Friday night. He will be replaced by offensive coordinator/coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen, on the heels of swirling media rumors and allegations of back-stabbing within the Mountaineers coaching staff.

Director of Athletics Oliver Luck announced Friday night that Holgorsen will be elevated to head football coach.

“As I said when I introduced Dana as our offensive coordinator and head coach-designate, he is ready for this challenge and undoubtedly the huge responsibility that goes along with it,” Luck said. “I have complete confidence in his ability to coach this team and lead us into the next chapter of Mountaineer football. I firmly believe our fans will see an exciting brand of football and will be pleased with the product on the field.”

Holgorsen's ascent to the head coaching job comes just two weeks after it was revealed that he was removed from a West Virginia casino in the early morning hours of May 18th after inappropriate and uncooperative behavior.

Holgorsen apologized for his conduct after the event was made public, but in the ensuing days, allegations of other similar incidents followed – which were assertively denied by the WVU administration. Rumors then began to surface that head coach Bill Stewart—or members of his staff and/or family—were responsible for leaking information about Holgorsen's behavior to the media.

The story came to a head when former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter Colin Dunlap—who resigned from his job with the paper only days before—appeared on an overnight Pittsburgh radio show to accuse Stewart of asking reporters, including Dunlap himself, to dig up dirt on Holgorsen. Dunlap worked as the West Virginia football beat writer for the newspaper at the time he claimed Stewart made the request, but did not report it then, instead waiting until he was no longer working the beat—or in the industry, for that matter—to drop the bombshell.

"Clearly, this was becoming a distraction for our football program," said Luck. "The totality of the circumstances, the totality of the innuendo and all the things that were being said, the distractions that I believe would not come to a close prompted me to sit down with coach Stewart over the past couple of days in a very frank and candid manner."

Luck briefly addressed the specific allegations.

"The university was not able to substantiate any of the rumors and innuendos out there and I’d like to leave it at that because it’s all in the past and we are focused on moving forward and building a strong Mountaineer program," he said. "There was an investigation."

Holgorsen was hired by West Virginia from Oklahoma State after serving as the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator in 2010. It originally was announced in December that Holgorsen would serve as WVU’s offensive coordinator and head coach-designate for a season, and then become the head coach. He has been on staff since the beginning of January and coached the offense throughout spring drills.

The allegations, rumors and revelations sped-up the process.

"This is a chance of a lifetime," Holgorsen said. "I understand that and am extremely thankful for the opportunity to be here in front of you at this point now."

Luck said he did not make a mistake when he hired Holgorsen to work with--and ultimately replace--Stewart, but admitted that the decision, and the nature of the working relationship between the two men, was open for second-guessing..

"At the time I thought it made a lot of sense and was a good management practice. With hindsight, folks could certainly disagree," Luck said.

As for Stewart, he now leaves West Virginia having first been pushed aside, and then accused of a failed coup attempt. Nevertheless, Holgorsen thanked the main he will ultimately replace.

"I would also like to thank Bill Stewart for his service and dedication to the Mountaineer football program, the state of West Virginia and the university. It is much appreciated what he has accomplished and what he has done the last three years," said Holgorsen.

Stewart was not available for comment, but Luck passed along these words from the former head coach:

“As I said on the day I was appointed head coach, what is best for WVU is my first priority. Today, I am doing what I believe to be in the best interest of the Mountaineer Nation.”

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