Stewart: "No Intention" To Retire

Hours after he personally told the Blue & Gold News that rumors and reports that he would retire at season's end were completely false, Bill Stewart repeated that message on a Sunday afternoon conference call with members of the media.

Stewart told Blue & Gold News publisher Greg Hunter early Sunday that there was no validity to the report, which spread across the internet late Saturday.

BlueGoldNews.com then posted the information that the head coach gave to Hunter. Stewart addressed the rumors at the start of his regularly-scheduled teleconference.

"First and foremost, let me begin by saying the reports of my retirement are greatly exaggerated," Stewart said, his first words of his opening statement. "In fact, you're hearing it directly from me, Bill Stewart: I have absolutely no intention of walking away."

Pressed by one reporter as to whether he has been asked by anyone within the West Virginia athletic department to consider retiring "or anything along that line," Stewart laughed before sticking largely to his opening statement.

"I already answered that, and I don't know how to say it better," the third-year Mountaineer head football coach said.

Notably, no one from the media outlet that initially reported Stewart would be retiring at the end of the season asked any questions to the head coach during the conference call.

At the end of the call, which lasted a little over 16 minutes, Stewart thanked other media members for "your professionalism in the wake of what's gone on."

"I AM FOCUSING ON RUTGERS"

Stewart had said in his opening statement that he is "not focusing on retirement." His thoughts, he insisted, were all about his Mountaineers' regular season finale, which comes this Saturday against Rutgers at Milan Puskar Stadium.

If West Virginia can earn a victory over the Scarlet Knights on Senior Day in Morgantown, Stewart and company would clinch no worse than a share of the Big East Conference championship.

With a win, WVU would earn the league's BCS bowl berth if Connecticut were to fall later Saturday night in a game at South Florida.

But while some of the Mountaineer players were glued to their television sets this past Saturday (their Twitter accounts said as much), watching the Huskies play against Cincinnati, Stewart claimed he was not fretting about the outcome of UConn's last two games.

"I did not watch one snap of the Cincy-UConn game," said Stewart, who did admit he received occasional updates via text message. "I did not [watch] -- hand to God, on my son's head. I've got about 10,000 witnesses that saw me in Martinsburg."

Indeed, the third-year West Virginia coach was in the state's eastern panhandle to watch his son, Blaine, a holder on the Morgantown High football team, play in the Class AAA state semifinals, a game the Mohigans lost to the home-standing Bulldogs.

While that means the elder Stewart won't have to worry about watching his son this weekend, he said he wouldn't necessarily watching UConn play USF later Saturday night either -- even if that outcome could go a long way towards determining the Mountaineers' bowl fate.

"If my head's not hurting so bad come Saturday about 4:00, and I've spent a little time with my family, I don't know what I'm going to do," Stewart said. "But I can only tell you what I did Saturday: I went to the Morgantown-Martinsburg football game and I did not watch one snap of the Cincy-UConn game because that doesn't matter to me. It doesn't matter to me."

"The only thing that matters to Bill Stewart, this staff and these players is you better beat Rutgers and take care of our business before you worry about anybody else's business. I'm going to keep pounding that in their head, and I'll bear-crawl them up that Law School Hill if I hear anything other than that come out of that locker room. I'll promise you that."

INJURY UPDATE:

While the news out of this past Friday's 35-10 Backyard Brawl victory over arch-rival Pittsburgh was almost all good for Stewart and company, there was one worrisome development.

Nose guard Chris Neild, one of the leaders and best players on WVU's highly-ranked defense, did not play in the second half after injuring his hamstring.

His status for Saturday's duel with the Scarlet Knights remains to be determined, and Stewart sounded alternately optimistic and pessimistic about the senior's prognosis.

"He's going to be okay. He's not going to be great," the head coach said. "I'm not going to lie to you. He's not going to be great." But just a few sentences later, Stewart added, "All indications are he will play Saturday and he should be able to play very well."

When asked if the ideal situation would be for West Virginia to get a big lead early and allow Neild to rest and start to rehabilitate the injury in advance of the team's bowl game, Stewart would have little of it.

"That would be great, but we need to win this game," he siad. "Every waking moment of my life for the next six days is going to be on beating Rutgers. I can't tell you that enough. I will not sleep.

"We're on a mission. We have no weak links. I'm not going to let anybody try to tear my team apart or my staff apart or try to set up sensationalism. All I want to do is focus on Rutgers, and we will have no weak links so they can't find a chink in our armor."

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