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Football coach Bill Stewart dies at 59

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Former West Virginia football coach Bill Stewart, who was hailed as Rich Rodriguez's successor but wound up leaving the school in a messy split, died yesterday, apparently of a heart attack, athletic department officials said. He was 59.

Stewart's family said he had been out golfing with the longtime friend who hired him as head coach, former athletic director Ed Pastilong.

Stewart went 28-12 in three seasons after taking over when Rodriguez left for Michigan after the 2007 regular season. Stewart, a deeply religious family man, stepped in and guided the team to a surprising 48-28 victory over the Sooners.

In the euphoric aftermath, he was given the job full-time -- to the surprise of many -- but the Mountaineers didn't go to another BCS bowl under his leadership and Stewart couldn't match the production of Rodriguez.

In Stewart's three seasons, West Virginia averaged at least 79 fewer yards per game than the 2007 team.

Stewart resigned last summer and was replaced by Dana Holgorsen the same night.

A native of New Martinsville, Stewart attended Fairmont State and earned a master's degree in health and physical education from WVU in 1977.

He had assistant coaching stints at seven colleges before becoming head coach at VMI in 1994, going 8-25 in three seasons. After a two-year stint in the Canadian Football League, Stewart was hired by Don Nehlen as an assistant at West Virginia.

-- AP

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