Stewart had been an assistant coach at West Virginia since 2000, having been hired by Don Nehlen. He was the only Nehlen assistant coach retained by Rodriguez when he became the head coach in 2001.
When Rodriguez abruptly left for Michigan in December of 2007, Stewart was named the interim coach for the Mountaineers' upcoming Fiesta Bowl appearance against Oklahoma. When WVU won that game in a rout, 48-28, he was officially named the head coach in the hours after the game at a hotel in Arizona.
Stewart was not able to keep the momentum going, however. His first team, in 2008, lost two of its first three games, and although it recovered to win eight regular season games and the Meineke Car Care Bowl, it was considered a disappointment after three straight 11-win seasons.
All three of his teams in 2009 through 2011 posted identical 9-4 records, which gave him one of the most successful records by a new coach in school history. But After Rodriguez had coached three straight teams to Top 10 finishes in the national polls, Stewart's only ranked squad at the end of a season was in 2009, when WVU was No. 25 in the Associated Press poll.
All of that divided a fan base that included those who admired the New Martinsville native for his efforts and his loyalty and his devotion to West Virginia and the university, and those who pined for the 11-win seasons and prestigious bowl berths.
Then, when Pastilong retired and Oliver Luck became the school's new athletic director, Luck decided a change was in order. In early November of 2010, shortly after WVU had lost back-to-back games to Syracuse and Connecticut, Luck told Stewart that he was making changes. He told Stewart that at least two of his offensive coaches would not be retained the following season, and that the next season would also be Stewart's last.
A month later, Luck hired Dana Holgorsen as the team's new offensive coordinator and head coach in waiting. Holgorsen was to serve the 2011 season as the offensive coordinator and then take over for Stewart in 2012.
The situation, though, was apparently untenable for Stewart. In May of last year, Luck fired Stewart after discovering that the coach had asked at least one reporter to try to defame Holgorsen. Holgorsen was elevated to the head coaching position in June and Stewart settled for a $1.65 million buyout.
Since then, Stewart had remained largely invisible to the public. He did not grant interviews on the advice of his attorneys, who had agreed to what amounted to a gag order in the settlement, one which prohibited either side from defaming the other. The final payment to Stewart was made this spring.
Stewart never ruled out the possibility that he might coach again, but said for now he wanted to have free time to watch Blaine play high school sports.
Stewart, who attended WVU as a freshman but transferred to and graduated from Fairmont State, seemed destined for a life as a career assistant coach until the events at West Virginia. He was an assistant at Salem College, North Carolina, William & Mary, Navy, Arizona State and Air Force. He also spent three seasons as the head coach at VMI from 1994-96. When he was ousted there he spent the next two seasons in the CFL before returning to West Virginia.