As the Virginia Tech Hokies came out of the tunnel last night for the 2nd half versus the Miami Hurricanes, they found themselves on the wrong side of a disappointing 1st half . Down 24-0, Virginia Tech returned to the field with a sense of urgency, sparked by a 58 yard kickoff return. The Hokies quickly marched to the Miami 3 yard line, as the bourbon fueled, sellout crowd at Lane Stadium regained their bright eyes and full throats.
The moment was fleeting, as running back Marshawn Williams was stripped of the ball at the Hurricane 2 yard line on a play that for all intents and purposes sealed the fate of Virginia Tech on this night. A garbage time TD pass from the backup QB was the only thing that prevented the first Hokies shut out since 1995, as the Canes took this one with ease, 30-6.
At his post game press conference, Head Coach Frank Beamer remarked “I think we’re going to be a good football team next year, and that’s kind of where we are.”
Next year? I can’t imagine any players, coaches, alumni or fans would have expected “next year” talk with four games remaining this year, after Virginia Tech celebrated their landmark win at Ohio State in early September. After last night, it was probably an easy task to find a despondent Hokie supporter in the Lane Stadium parking lot who’d argue Beamer shouldn’t be on the sidelines “next year.”
8-5 and 7-6 campaigns have been followed up by this season going almost completely off the rails, as the Hokies are in danger of missing a bowl game for the first time since 1992; an incredible run built on the back of Beamer and his staff.
However, many are starting to ask the question, should Frank Beamer retire?
Frank Beamer is Virginia Tech football, plain and simple. The trajectory of his career and their program have run parallel since he took the job in 1987; after a head coaching stint at Murray State. A Virginia native and Hokie football alum, Beamer slowly built a juggernaut in Southwest Virginia as Virginia Tech emerged from decades of irrelevance on the college football landscape.
Everyone points to the 1999 season when the Hokies made it to the Nationals Championship game on the arm and legs of Michael Vick, but a truer milestone is the 1995 Sugar Bowl win over Texas. Playing in one of the most storied bowl games against one of the most prestigious teams in the sport, an unknown Virginia Tech team whipped up on the Longhorns 28-10 and woke up the country to the fact that the Hokies were legit, and Beamer was leading the charge.
I get the feeling that nationally, Beamer is still under appreciated. One only needs to look at the numbers to see how impressive of a resume he has compiled. On the all time wins list, there are far too many big names in his wake to list, so instead I’ll list the only D-1 coaches who have more career wins than Beamer:
- Bobby Bowden
- Bear Bryant
- Pop Warner
- Amos Alonzo Stagg
- Joe Paterno
That’s it, that’s the list. The closest active coach is Steve Spurrier, who sits 47 wins in the rears. Beamer’s teams have won three Big East titles (when the conference was extremely treacherous) and four ACC Championships. The aforementioned bowl streak stands at 20 years, the third longest stretch of it’s kind. Starting in 1993, this streak sustained through years where you needed more than a pulse and six wins to make a bowl appearance. More recently, Beamer led the Hokies to eight straight 10+ win seasons (2004 to 2011) with his trademark stingy defenses, excellent running games and play making special teams.
In light of this evidence, how could one possibly argue that Beamer should clean off his desk in the head coaches office and slide into a cushy executive gig in the athletic department? Florida State and Penn State fans would be a good source of enlightenment. Beamer’s situation is not at the drama levels that Bowden and Paterno had when they gripped onto their jobs like a Labrador Retriever clutching to it’s most favorite chew toy, but it could head that direction the longer his teams yield mediocre results.
FSU and Penn State staggered around in college football darkness for years during the last days of Bowden and Paterno, as they wrestled with the idea of replacing the most iconic figures their athletic departments had ever hired.
The most common critique of the Beamer regime is his teams performance in big games, particularly major out of conference games and bowl games. Since joining the ACC in 2004, the Hokies are 7-14 in these games. Of the wins, the most notable would be an ’05 regular season win over West Virginia (their only loss of the season), a last second ’09 win over Nebraska or this seasons Ohio State win.
On the flip side, this is a program that’s had many chances to make big splashes with talented teams and couldn’t get the win, often times in games that weren’t close. Teams like Alabama, LSU, Boise State and USC among others have been willing to play Virginia Tech and the Hokies have rarely been able to take advantage of the opportunity.
Bowl games have been equally troublesome, with an overall record of 9-12 including some golden opportunities versus top flight programs like Michigan, Stanford, Auburn and Georgia that ended with a Hokie defeat. It’s appeared that when top coaching staffs have extra time to prepare for Beamer’s Hokies, the end result has been a Tech loss.
Beamer’s teams have been opportunistic within the ACC, winning four titles in nine seasons. It hasn’t been the strongest league by any stretch, with the low point in 2008 when the Hokies somehow won the league while losing three conference games. But Beamer has built teams that can match up with the best talent in the conference, including several impressive wins over FSU and Clemson.
In state, he’s dominated the series with UVa, including an active 10 game win streak. Most of the games haven’t been close and those results spilled over into the recruiting game as the Hokies consistently got the states top talent while former UVa coach Al Groh almost completely ignored the fertile grounds of Tidewater when searching for players.
Prior to this season, Beamer signed a two year extension that runs through 2018. Retirement rumors had begun to swirl, and some speculated that the extension was done primarily out of necessity on the recruiting trail. Nothing can deter a recruit like uncertainty on the coaching staff. In light of the past few seasons, will he stay through this extension?
Thursday night’s result was new ground for many Hokie fans. At home, in front of a sell out crowd, on a Thursday night, versus a freshman QB they got absolutely hammered. I went so far as to pick them on our Facebook page.
Virginia Tech WAS Thursday night football for years. I went to the Marshall game back in 2002 when Byron Leftwich was playing QB, and it was an electric scene. It was damn near impossible to win in Blacksburg on a Thursday night. Last night, a quiet crowd filed out into the night as the Canes ran up and down on the Hokie defense.
When it comes time for a potential coaching change, will Beamer go as quietly?