- Associated Press - Friday, June 10, 2011

MORGANTOWN, W.VA. (AP) - After a week of drama that showed no signs of relenting, something in West Virginia’s football program had to give. That something was head coach Bill Stewart.

His presence became such a distraction that athletic director Oliver Luck decided late Friday to eliminate it.

After introducing coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen as the new head man at a late-night press conference, a stoic Luck acknowledged having a series of “very frank and candid” conversations with Stewart over the past few days about unspecified “rumors and innuendo” that had been dogging the program.

Both Holgorsen and Stewart made unwanted headlines in recent weeks.

An intoxicated Holgorsen was escorted out of a casino last month. And this week, a former newspaper reporter said Stewart had approached him shortly after Holgorsen’s hiring to “dig up dirt” on his eventual successor.

WVU was unable to substantiate any of the rumors about Stewart, Luck said, declining to reveal what they were. Stewart, who will not remain at WVU in any capacity, did not attend the press conference.

“That’s in the past,” he said. “We’re focused on the future and building what has been a very successful Mountaineer program into a better Mountaineer program.”

Luck said the program “is more important than any individual, is more important than any coach, any player, and clearly, this was becoming a distraction.”

Holgorsen was hired as offensive coordinator and head coach-in-waiting in December, while Stewart was to serve his final season in 2011.

Now Holgorsen, who was Oklahoma State’s offensive coordinator for one season before taking the WVU job, is a college head coach for the first time and also will serve as offensive coordinator.

“This is the chance of a lifetime. I understand that,” he said. “…I’m honored. I’m humbled to have this opportunity in front of me.”

He sidestepped a question about how it felt to step into the top job amid scandal.

“It’s all about looking forward to the future, to next season,” Holgorsen said. “I’ve had my head down and have been working diligently for the past six weeks, six months, and that ain’t gonna change.”

Holgorsen said he hasn’t addressed the players yet, but his message plans to be “stay the course.”

“Nothing’s really changing,” he said. “The one thing that will be preached every day is unity. I mean, everybody’s in this together.”

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