They had gotten so used to double-digit win seasons at Virginia Tech that the past three years with seven, eight and seven victories have been a bit of a shock to the system.
So more and more the conversation in and around Blacksburg centers on how to get the Hokies back to the top of the ACC, and just how long head coach Frank Beamer should stick around if they don’t.
Beamer isn’t getting fired anytime soon. When he took over the program at his alma mater it had only ever been to six bowl games. He’s now added 22 to that total. He hasn’t had a losing season since 1992.
The rise of Virginia Tech under Beamer nearly mirrors that of Joe Paterno at Penn State and Bill Snyder at Kansas State. The fear now, as Beamer approaches his 69th birthday this fall and recovers from throat surgery, is that his declining results might also follow the pattern of Paterno or Snyder at the end of his first term at K-State.
Those programs saw the wins decrease while their rivals caught up. That might be less of a concern with Mike London, who is winless against Beamer and the Hokies, in charge at Virginia. But the Cavaliers have more than held their own in recruiting battles and while losing out on more in-state recruits hasn’t cost Tech wins against UVa, it may have against other teams.
So it’s no wonder there’s more and more talk of a succession plan.
At the ACC’s media days last month, a writer from the Atlanta Journal Constitution wondered if Beamer could get the “Bowden treatment.” AKA, being gently pushed out the door.
When the ACC coaches visited ESPN headquarters for rounds of interviews, Beamer was asked about the future and said he thought defensive coordinator Bud Foster or his son and assistant head coach Shane Beamer would be good choices to replace him someday.
When the Hokies hosted their own media day, he backed away from those comments a bit.
“Let me clarify that,” Beamer told the reporters in attendance. “I think somebody said Shane and Bud would be the most logical, and then I talked about them. But on my staff, I think I’ve got a lot of guys that are capable of being head coaches. Several of them. And I’m not going to have any part in determining that. That’s for the administration here at Virginia Tech. I’m just trying like heck to not make them make a decision any time soon.”
Those aren’t necessarily the topics a team wants to address repeatedly right before the season begins. But this is where the Hokies are right now: not bad enough for drastic measures, but not good enough to end the talk.
Beamer and the Hokies need a bounce back season. An ACC Coastal Division title would go a long way toward turning the conversation back in his favor.
It won’t be easy. Georgia Tech is a favorite to win the division with Justin Thomas back at quarterback to run the option, but the Hokies have plenty of talent too, led by defensive back Kendall Fuller and defensive tackle Luther Maddy. Virginia Tech quarterback Michael Brewer returns with a few more weapons around him on offense.
But this is also a team that scored three points in a two-overtime game at Wake Forest last year. It would take a huge improvement to resemble the Virginia Tech teams from Beamer’s glory days with the likes of Michael Vick and Tyrod Taylor electrifying crowds at Lane Stadium.
It’s quite possible those days are gone.