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And Stewart was diplomatic about the hire, saying the team would let Holgorsen “implement ideas and schemes in preparation of getting the finest offensive staff we can compile.”

Six months later, the arrangement had fallen apart, and Stewart’s departure became difficult. Both he and Holgorsen made unwanted headlines in the weeks leading up to the shake-up.

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

“At the time I thought it made a lot of sense, I thought it was good management practice,” Luck said last June. “With hindsight, folks could certainly disagree.”

In Holgorsen’s first season, the Mountaineers went 10-3, were Big East co-champions and beat Clemson 70-33 in the Orange Bowl.

“The State of West Virginia, our University and our football program has lost a true Mountaineer who gave his native state university a decade of coaching service and a lifetime of guidance and inspiration to thousands of young men over a 33-year career,” Holgorsen said Monday. “Though Coach Stewart achieved many great milestones on the field, we will most remember his kindness and compassion.”

Former West Virginia running back Steve Slaton, who entered the NFL draft after his junior season in 2007, said he was at a loss for words. “I am honored to have had him as a friend and coach,” Slaton said. “I know every player that has had the opportunity to be around him would say the same.”

Stewart, a native of New Martinsville, 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.

Bill was such a great Mountaineer and a great addition to our staff,” Nehlen said. “It was a terrific hire _ he did a great job not only for me, but for Rich and as a head coach. Bill was such a great husband and a great father. Bill Stewart was a great Mountaineer.”

Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin got his first coaching job when Stewart hired him as an assistant at VMI, and Tomlin was elated when Stewart got the West Virginia job.

“We are saddened by the passing of Coach Stew,” Tomlin said in a statement released by the Steelers. “He was a great coach and a tremendous person. We not only lost a good football person, we lost an even better family man.”

Stewart and his wife, Karen, have one son, Blaine.

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AP Sports Writer John Raby in Charleston contributed to this report.