A Racial Skeleton in the Closet of the New Head Football Coach at West Virginia University

Bill Stewart was recently promoted to head football coach at West Virginia University. He had been serving as an assistant coach to Rich Rodriguez, who left to take the head coaching job at the University of Michigan.

Stewart was hired to the West Virginia coaching staff in 2000, four years after a racial incident with one of his players in 1996 when he was the coach at the Virginia Military Institute. Kelly Cook, a player at VMI at the time, was celebrating a touchdown in the end zone during practice. Cook says that Stewart ran at him from 50 yards away and yelled, “You’re acting like a nigger from Petersburg. You don’t go to Virginia Union. You don’t go to Virginia State.”

Virginia Union and Virginia State are two historically black universities.

West Virginia University officials said that they discussed the incident with Stewart when he was initially hired as an assistant coach in 2000 and that they were comfortable with his explanation.

According to the latest data from the National Collegiate Athletic Association, blacks make up 54 percent of the football players on athletic scholarship at West Virginia University. Less than half of the black football players in the program go on to earn a bachelor’s degree.