MORGANTOWN - For anyone who considered that Bill Stewart would eventually balk at the arrangement that has been thrust upon him and decide to step down as West Virginia's football coach when the season ends, he was very clear on the matter Tuesday.
He isn't going anywhere until he has to go.
"I'm all in,'' Stewart said Tuesday. "I will be the football coach in 2011. That's my marching orders and that's what I'm going with and I'm in on it and ready to go.''
It will, of course, be Stewart's last season. He has already agreed to give up the final two years of his contract, to have a new offensive coordinator - and perhaps an entire offensive staff - forced upon him next year and to give up his own job to that same coordinator in 2012.
Dana Holgorsen, the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State, has been hired to replace Jeff Mullen next season and Stewart the season after that. Holgorsen, who was hired last week, is scheduled to be in Morgantown today and will appear at a joint press conference with Stewart.
And on Tuesday, in his first public comments since the coaching change was revealed, Stewart did everything he could to insist that he is on board with the changes and that he looks forward to next season, but that first his focus is on preparing for next Tuesday's Champs Sports Bowl game against North Carolina State.
That's no easy task of focus given that all of his players and coaches are obviously aware - if not preoccupied in some cases - with the coaching situation.
"I've not seen any distractions, I honestly have not,'' Stewart said Tuesday following practice. "Young people are resilient. They follow the lead of their head coach, they follow the lead of the coaching staff and they follow the lead of the seniors. And I can honestly tell you that there's not been one distraction that I've seen.''
Stewart has known for more than a month that the process of replacing him was under way. Athletic director Oliver Luck met with Stewart on Nov. 14 and Stewart at that time agreed to give up at least the final two years of his contract. He was essentially forced to do so because of NCAA violations within the program that would have allowed the school to void his contract had he not agreed to the modification.
Still, as for any bitterness on his part, Stewart put his best face on the situation.
"Billy Stewart is still who I am. It's what I am. I'm a football coach and I love this university,'' Stewart said before pausing ever so briefly. "Let me back up. I love this football team, I love this university and I love this state . . . I'm trying to keep everybody focused on a football game. And [everything else] will be talked about Jan. 1 when new things take place.