Bill Stewart gets a lot of grief for the sometimes meandering manner of his press conferences. Sometimes we get confused trying to follow along and sort sense from nonsense. Quite often, there’s a good point lost in translation.
Fortunately, there’s value in decoding Bill Stewart. This week, WVU’s head coach goes into historical detail on developing his team’s diurnality while explaining when he’d like to play his home games.
From Tuesday’s press conference:
Question: “Bill, they have a tradition of playing almost all of their home games at night1. Kind of unique in that regard. Could you ever see having that type of schedule here?
“I mean, a lot of people say, “Wow, it’d be nice to have a whole bunch of night games,” but there are obstacles in the way, TV namely. How tricky is that and can you ever envision something where you played all late-afternoon or night games?”
Answer: “Night games here? Our players like night games. Until we started these 6 a.m. workouts — You all remember when we started that? — we could never win in the daytime. And we started those 6 a.m. workouts2, I said, “Have game, will march.” 3
“You know, it’s like the great general in the war between the states. Thomas Jonathan Jackson. Right down the road here4. And his march wasn’t at dawn. It was at early dawn.5
“Now, what’s that mean? That means you’ve got to get up a little quicker than the next guy. So you get up a little earlier and you march a little sooner so when you get there you’re ready to go. We finally got that noon thing, this past week, up at UConn on the road.6 Remember how – I was scared to death up there two years ago. I’ll be the same way this year. 7
“The noon game, our guys just don’t get up and go. So we started that theory. Set your alarm. Don’t hit the snooze button. That’s all I told them all week. You’ve got to set your alarm. I begged the Mountaineer Nation and they were so reciprocal. Set your alarm, Mountaineer People. You’ve got to get up. Don’t hit the snooze. You’ve got to play at noon, at 3:30, at 7:30. 8
“Mike9, I like, because of recruiting, for me, personally, the 3:30ish start because we can get youngsters a chance to drive here. Now I’m selfish, they get a chance to drive here from the 250-mile radius. Then we can keep them after the game a litle bit and enjoy them. A noon game, they can’t get here. A night game, they all want to get back because you’ve got to get over the mountain.
“So you see, that’s the best way I can answer that.”10
And exhale. Now for an explanation and the revelation of some interesting points. Let’s tiptoe through the footnotes.
1: Since 1960, LSU is 215-60-4 (.778) at night in Tiger Stadium compared to a 21-26-3 (.450) record during the day over that span. Since 2000, LSU is 51-5 in night games and head coach Les Miles is 24-1 in night games in Death Valley. Source: LSUSports.net. (Add one win to all those records, by the way. That was written in the preseason and LSU is won it’s only home game this season … at night last week against Mississippi State).
2: Haunted by dreadful starts and some losses in noon games in 2008, WVU began 6 a.m. practices during spring football in 2009 and brought them back this past spring. Players seem to like it, not necessarily because it prepares them for the season some five months later, but because they have the rest of the day to themselves for work and play.
3: He did say that. I remember. The point of the 6 a.m. practices was to get his players not only used to being up early and ready for noon games, but to have them prepared for action as soon as any situation needed them. WVU could play a game at any time of the day. That didn’t matter to Stewart. He wanted his players ready ASAP. He figured there wouldn’t be a lot of time between when his players woke up and when they started practice on the 6 a.m. days. That, he thought, would condition them to be ready right away. Contrast that to, say, sitting around all day and watching games before playing an 8 p.m. game.
4: Stonewall Jackson was born in what is known today as Clarksburg, just down the road from Morgantown.
5: Stewart, a history/military buff, no doubt learned of Jackson’s ways when he was at Virginia Military Institute. That’s where Jackson first became revered for the ways he tested his pupils and developed their discipline, ways that included early marches. VMI is also where Stewart got his first head coaching job. Source: Wikipedia.
6: Slight slip-up, but it makes sense. Stewart was really impressed by the way his team started in a noon game against Maryland “last week.” His team first started to turn that corner at UConn in 2008. WVU was 0-2 on the road at that point that year and had trailed 10-0 against ECU and 14-0 against Colorado at the end of the first quarter. Interestingly enough, WVU trailed UConn 13-7 at the half that game, but won 35-13.
7: Stewart was admittedly “afraid” of a bad start at UConn in 2008. I believe he’ll be the same this year — a Friday night game on Halloween weekend.
8: I guess this happened on his weekly call-in radio show, when he had the opportunity to ask Mountaineer People and Mountaineer Nation to be ready at noon, just like his players.
10: Bill Stewart would prefer to play home games at 3:30 p.m. so that recruits can easily come visit.