It was two days after his sixth Virginia Tech team had lost 41-38 to rival Virginia to end a 2-8-1 season. Athletic director Dave Braine was called into the office of the school president.
“He said, ‘Mr. A.D. do we need to make a change with our football program?’” Braine recalled. “I said, ‘No sir, unless it’s give Frank more money to hire better assistant coaches.’”
By the time Braine left that office, not only was Beamer’s job safe but student fees at Virginia Tech had been raised to pay for a better assistant coaching staff. The next season, the Hokies went 9-3 and to the first of 14 straight bowl games.
No. 14 will be against Georgia (8-4) Saturday in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. The Hokies’ 60-year-old coach will be going for his 199th career win, third all-time among active coaches.
With the retirement this month of Air Force’s Fisher DeBerry, Beamer’s 20 years at Virginia Tech also is the third most among active coaches at one school, trailing Penn State’s Joe Paterno and Florida State’s Bobby Bowden.
“By the time I had grown up as a coach, he had established himself and that program,” Richt said. “I can only remember when Virginia Tech was rolling. They’ve always been good to me.”
They haven’t always been good, though. Beamer took over the program from Bill Dooley, former Georgia coach Vince Dooley’s younger brother, in 1987. NCAA probation came soon after Dooley left.
“At one time (Beamer) was probably down 15-18 scholarships. There was apathy really,” Braine said. “There really wasn’t much concern one way or another for the program because they had been losing and not many people cared. When I got there, I just wanted to go to one bowl game before I retired.”
For Braine, there was no question Beamer should be retained despite the 1992 season, in which Tech lost five games by a total of 12 points. Braine, who was hired one year after Beamer, regularly watched game film with his coach on Sundays in the fall.
“I would ask him questions, and he always had good answers and he always had a good understanding of what was going on,” Braine said. “At that time, we just didn’t have as many good players as they do today.”
No modern day coach could survive a similar scenario, Braine and Beamer agree.
“The money gets up there and the more the money the quicker the results need to be,” Beamer said.
Although he declined to name names, Beamer said he was very surprised and disappointed at some of the firings in college football this season.
“I think if people just take a look and say, ‘Are we building a foundation and do we have the right guy?’ I think some people would be a little more patient,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what this person wants or what this alumni wants. The president and athletic director have to be able to control that situation.”
There are very few if any places left in the country where a president or athletic director can stand up to an overwhelming turn in public opinion, Braine said.
“The alumni base would not be tolerant enough to give you that much time to be successful,” he said. “It’s the win-right-now syndrome.”
Beamer has repaid Virginia Tech’s loyalty to him with plenty of his own, deflecting numerous suitors in the last decade.
“Other schools may have nice facilities and all, but we didn’t have anything to do with that,” he said. “At Virginia Tech, we had something to do with those things.”
“We” essentially means the quartet of Beamer, associate head coach Billy Hite, defensive coordinator Bud Foster and offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, who have a combined 84 years of experience at the school.
Beamer was born and raised in Fancy Gap, Va., a town along the Blue Ridge Parkway in southern Virginia that saw its population balloon to 260 by 2000, many years after Beamer had left his parents’ farm to be a standout football player for the Hokies and then their coach.
“We both grew up on farms,” Braine said. “I guess that’s why we hit it off so well. We were both country guys. The importance of how great you are didn’t make much difference to Frank. I think it had a lot to do with the success he had. Frank never has forgotten where he came from.”
Beamer plans to retire fewer than 35 miles from Georgia’s campus, at Reynold’s Plantation in Greensboro, where he owns two properties. He bought land there after friend Ralph Friedgen introduced him to developer Harold Reynolds several years ago.
The Beamers now spend most of June in the community.
“I think it’ll be a better summer if we can find a way to beat this Georgia crowd,” he said, “because there are a lot of Georgia Bulldogs in there I can tell you that.”
Virginia Tech Hokies
Record: 10-2, 6-2 ACC
Losses: 38-27 to Georgia Tech on Sept. 30, 22-3 to Boston College on Oct. 12
Offense: Sophomore quarterback Sean Glennon has rebounded from a slow start to complete 57 percent of his passes and throw for 2,097 yards.
Defense: Linebackers Vince Hall, a first-team All-American according to collegefootballnews.com, and Xavier Adibi pace a defense that ranks first in the country in yards (221.1) and points (9.3) allowed.
What’s a Hokie? The official answer is nothing. The school has been using the nickname since 1896 when a contest among the student body to write a new cheer introduced it. The student who wrote the winning cheer, O.M. Stull, said he made up the word.