This idea has come up many times, previously on this blog (in the comments) and message boards across Mountaineer Nation. Pastilong is still tentatively set to retire, and even people who don't like Stewart as a head coach generally like Stewart as a person and don't want to see him thrown out into the cold. Therefore, the handy-dandy "Stewart as Athletic Director" campaign begins.
Here are several reasons why that isn't a good idea:
Results aren't 100%, but major programs have been moving towards businessmen as athletic directors, not former players or coaches. At Notre Dame, Jack Swarbick is an attorney and former leader of Indianapolis's efforts to bring the Super Bowl, NCAA headquarters, and Pan Am Games to town. Just down the road at Indiana, the Hoosiers hired attorney Fred Glass to lead their department, who like Swarbick, was instrumental in bringing the Super Bowl to Indy and also helped build Lucas Oil Stadium for the Colts. Rutgers hired a former player in Tim Pernetti, but his last position was as CBS College Sports Vice President. Athletic departments today are like major corporations, commanding huge revenues and expenses, and need to managed as such. While I understand that it doesn't necessarily take a CEO or attorney to run, it should take more than simply coaching football your entire life.
Hiring a former coach to oversee an athletic department is fraught with problems. For a legendary coach moving to the press box, it can overshadow the successsor to the program (see: Mike Belotti/Chip Kelly at Oregon and Barry Alvarez/Bret Bielema at Wisconsin). Belotti has been roaming the sidelines at Autzen Stadium like he's still the coach, making for a sometimes tense situation. In West Virginia's case, however, it could be the complete opposite. Stewart would lack a lot of power assuming the athletic director role after being essentially demoted from head coach. The new coach probably wouldn't think much of Stewart, and Huggins certainly wouldn't feel beholden to answer to him. We need power at that position, something that Stewart would not bring.
- Stewart would make for an excellent ambassador for the state and this program. That's a wonderful quality to have, and it would certainly benefit the athletic department in some capacity. That's where the bulk of this idea comes from. But there is much, much more to being an athletic director than being a great guy. Just as there is being a major head football coach.
Those are just a few reasons. Thankfully, it is not my job to select the athletic director (we all know I would appoint myself -- talk about lack of power and influence). But it will be the president's responsibility, and this is an outsider president that might not feel the same compassion for a West Virginia boy as might Pastilong, etc. We need strength and experience at the position, and the two most logical names that come up are Oliver Luck and Whit Babcock, both of whom have extensive experience in major athletics. That's what West Virginia needs right now.