MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Condolences streamed in from as far as Texas and Massachusetts as fans and mourners gathered Thursday in Morgantown to pay tribute to former West Virginia University football coach Bill Stewart.
Stewart died Monday of an apparent heart attack at age 59 while on a golf outing with former athletic director Ed Pastilong.
A seven-hour public viewing was scheduled for the Morgantown Event Center, with plans for a private funeral Mass on Friday for family, close friends, coaches and former players.
Tributes on the McCulla Funeral Home website focused less on Stewart's record (28-12 in three seasons) and more on his warm personality, his passion for putting family first and his photographic memory for names and faces.
Game officials, former players, ex-State Police escorts and countless fans shared stories about their interactions with a man they say always made time for others, even strangers in a grocery store.
Stewart took over as head coach when Rich Rodriguez left for Michigan at the end of the 2007 regular season.
Mountaineer fans unleashed fury on Rodriguez for breaking his contract early and leaving shortly after a painful loss to rival Pittsburgh that cost the Mountaineers a shot at the national championship.
He also left two weeks before the Fiesta Bowl game against Oklahoma, taking recruits and assistants with him.
It was Stewart, a deeply religious family man, who stepped in and guided the team to a surprising 48-28 victory over the Sooners. In a rousing pre-game speech, he urged his players to outrun and out-hit the other team - but to do it fairly.