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Virginia Tech’s Beamer carried alma mater to new heights
Three decades of living his dream at Virginia Tech have done nothing to lessen Frank Beamer’s sense of awe or appreciation.
“I’ve been a fortunate guy,” said Beamer, whose is retiring after a legendary run as head football coach at his alma mater. “I’ve said that a lot these days, but I really mean it.”
Beamer, the winningest active coach in Division I, will retire having spent the final 29 years of his career in Blacksburg. Two hundred and thirty-six of his 278 wins have come at Virginia Tech, as have seven conference championships – including four ACC titles – and 22 consecutive bowl bids. The Hokies could qualify for a 23rd straight with a win over Virginia in Charlottesville on Saturday.
“Things just worked out,” Beamer said.
They worked out quite nicely for a guy who, despite his pedigree as a true Hokie, wasn’t sure he was quite ready for the job when Virginia Tech athletic director Dutch Baughman came calling at the end of the 1986 season. A three-year starter at cornerback who played on Tech’s 1966 and 1968 Liberty Bowl teams, Beamer had just completed his sixth season as head coach at Murray State.
Even after guiding the Racers to a 42-23-2 record and one Ohio Valley Conference co-championship, Beamer wasn’t totally sure about returning “home.”
“I wanted to get to this level,” he said. “But I thought I’d have to take a job at the level right below this and be successful there and then get this job. Then Dutch Baughman came along. I didn’t know him at all until the day we met and he interviewed me for the job. We just hit it off.”
Due to circumstances largely beyond his control, Beamer’s early Virginia Tech teams struggled. But the Hokies broke through with a 9-3 season in 1993, and it wasn’t long afterward until Beamer’s program became synonymous with excellence and success.
“When I came here, we were going through some sanctions that I didn’t realize until I had the job, but I would’ve taken it anyhow,” Beamer said. “I was just excited to have the job. I knew how fortunate I was to run out of the tunnel as a player then to run out of it as a coach at the very place I wanted to be.”
The numbers speak for themselves. Beamer’s career win total ranks sixth all-time at the FBS level, and his coaching resume includes 13 seasons with 10 or more wins. The Hokies have been so successful at blocking kicks and forcing turnovers, the term “Beamerball” is now almost universally applied when any team excels in those areas of the game. Class and dignity became equally synonymous with his program, and Beamer earned the admiration and respect of all associated with the college game.
The tributes have poured in the past few weeks. Beamer’s players carried him off the field following Virginia Tech’s final home game against North Carolina, and the capacity crowd at Lane Stadium remained long after game’s end in a showing of love and support.
Beamer’s fellow coaches unanimously agree it is all well-deserved.
“He is a legend,” Boston College’s Steve Addazio said. “It is sad to see those kinds of guys leave the game. He has had a great career, and and you can only hope and aspire to have a career like he has had.”
“There’s one of the greatest coaches that’s ever coached the game,” added North Carolina’s Larry Fedora. “The game is changing, and I don’t know if it’s always for the better. I hate to see Coach Beamer go because he’s done a tremendous job up there, and he made Virginia Tech football what it is.”