MORGANTOWN - Dr. C. Peter Magrath, newly named interim president of West Virginia University, has never met the institution's head football coach, Bill Stewart.
But the veteran academics leader, before starting a long-scheduled vacation with his family, said a week ago that he's eagerly looking forward to meeting the man about whom he had heard so much.
In paying tall tribute to Stewart, Magrath (pronounced Magraw) said:
"I have heard nothing but great things about him and his integrity and his character and the fact that he was willing to take this position (at a modest salary).
"And I am very glad that he did and, in a sense, asked that there be money set aside and found so he could put together a team of super assistants, even though he's not paid as much as most of his peers in the Big East.
"I think that is really a powerful signal and a smart move on his part."
Stewart agreed to a contract calling for a salary of only $800,000 annually, plus incentives, the morning after guiding West Virginia to a smashing 48-24 upset of No. 3-ranked Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl last Jan. 3. It is the greatest Mountaineer victory in history.
He's believed to be the lowest paid head coach in the Big East Conference. But he has by far the most experienced and highest-paid staff ever at WVU and probably one of the nation's best.
Rich Rodriguez isn't the first Marion County native to serve as head football coach at the University of Michigan.
The late Fielding "Hurry Up" Yost arrived in Ann Arbor, Mich., way back there in 1901 and boldly predicted that "Michigan isn't going to lose a game."
A native of Fairview, just a few miles from Rodriguez's old hometown, Yost wasn't very far off in his boast. The Wolverines combined for a 55-1 record from 1901 through 1905. In the process, they outscored opponents by 2,821-42 points.
Sticking out like a sore thumb to West Virginians was a 130-0 mauling of the Mountaineers by U-M on Oct. 22, 1904. It remains the worst beating by far in WVU history.
Yost lettered as a Mountaineer tackle in 1895-96, or some 86 years before Rodriguez earned his first letter as a defensive back.
In all, Yost produced "point-a-minute" Michigan teams for 24 years and posted an overall record of 165-29-10. Only Bo Schembechler ever did better at Ann Arbor.
After giving up the football reins, Yost extended his legacy by serving U-M as athletic director from 1921 to 1941. So he is credited with building the greatest college sports empire in the nation
Despite that dreadful drubbing, I think Fielding Yost ought to be in the WVU Sports Hall of Fame. He'd get my vote.
Richie Martha, a defensive back who also returned kicks for WVU in the mid-1960s, died recently at the age of 64 in Mt. Lebanon, Pa.
He not only was a fine player for coach Gene Corum but an outstanding person. An older brother, Paul, played for Pitt. But when Richie contributed to the memorable 63-48 victory over the Panthers in 1965, Paul already had graduated.
Richie went on to play for the Miami Dolphins in the NFL before beginning a highly successful career in business. He always cherished the lessons he learned as an athlete.
A son, Geoff Martha, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review after his death, "Dad believed that sports helped to develop character, a work ethic and humility."
Richie certainly possessed all three attributes.