Stewart will take over the team as it prepares for the Fiesta Bowl and WVU’s administration starts sifting through a list of candidates to permanently replace Rich Rodriguez.
Rodriguez told his players Sunday that he was leaving for Michigan. His resignation date originally was Jan. 3 but was moved up to midnight Tuesday, said WVU football spokesman Mike Montoro, who added that he did not know the reason.
Montoro said Mountaineers Athletic Director Ed Pastilong named Stewart as interim coach. Stewart will also take over recruiting.
Stewart is the second-longest serving assistant coach in the program.
‘‘I’m just an old ball coach trying to keep the herd together, I guess,’’ Stewart said earlier Tuesday before his appointment was announced. ‘‘We’ve had three really good days, and I am very proud of the effort that our young men have put forth. It’s been fun, and it’s been really good. Very enjoyable.’’
Stewart was retained by Rodriguez when he replaced Don Nehlen for the 2001 season. Stewart was promoted to associate head coach this season and coached special teams and tight ends. He relinquished his role as quarterbacks coach, which he held since 2000.
‘‘We’ve had sharp, crisp practices,’’ Stewart said. ‘‘We have not had any young men late, or blowing off meetings, which is great. I think that day one, Sunday, was a shock for them. Some of them were very sad, but they have bounced right back and gotten to work. That’s nice to see, the maturity.’’
West Virginia departs Morgantown on Dec. 26 and will face No. 3 Oklahoma in the Jan. 2 game in Glendale, Ariz.
Stewart is well liked because he’s talkative, honest and personable with the players.
Stewart graduated in 1975 from Fairmont State where he was a three-year letter winner. His assistant coaching stints include Marshall, William & Mary, Navy, North Carolina, Arizona State and Air Force. He became head coach at VMI in 1994 and went 8-25 over three seasons.