On Monday, longtime Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer told reporters that he is only interested in two things: 1. Beating Boston College on Saturday, and 2. Whatever is best for the football program.
“The only thing I’m really concerned about right now is Boston College,” said Beamer, according to the Daily Press. “That’s the only thing on my mind. I can tell you the second part of that is whatever is good for Virginia Tech, what’s best for Virginia Tech, is what I’m into. I’ve always felt that way, and always will, and that’s it.”
If this were the mid-2000s, we’d be chalking Boston College week as the closest thing next to a sure-win for the Hokies, and “whatever is best for the football program” would be signing Beamer to another contract extension. But Virginia Tech, now 3-5 (1-3 ACC) after losing four of its last five games, is in danger of missing the postseason for the first time since 1992 — Beamer’s sixth season in Blacksburg — and those two things have taken on a whole different meaning.
Boston College (3-5, 0-5) has lost four games in a row, scoring five total offensive touchdowns in as many conferences games it’s played. But instead of a midseason tune-up — Beamer has winning streaks of seven (1996-2002) and five (2008-12) against BC — the Eagles serve as a must-win for the Hokies.
And with a loss, “whatever is best” might mean a resignation letter from Beamer on athletic director Whit Babcock’s desk Sunday morning, putting an end to an era that deserves to remembered for all the successes, rather than the failures. There are far more of the former, but we as human beings tend to focus on what’s going on now — and right now, we’re watching a 69-year-old legendary coach lose his grip on a program that has slowly been on the decline.
From 1993-2011, you’d be hard-pressed to find another football program that won with such consistency. No, Virginia Tech never won any national titles, but during that 19-year stretch, the Hokies went 185-58 — an average of 9.7 wins per season — with eight bowl wins (in 19 appearances) and seven conference championships. Beamer won five conference coach of the year awards, and was nationally recognized as college football’s top coach in 1999 when VT won 11 games for the first time in school history.
Virginia Tech was at the top of its game from 2004-11, finishing all eight seasons with double-digit wins and receiving invites to five BCS bowls (though it won just one of them; 2008 against Cincinnati). However, the Hokies have been on a downward spiral since, posting a 25-22 record over the last three-and-a-half seasons, leaving many wondering whether Beamer is still capable of leading the team to championships in the immediate future.
Let’s put it this way: during the glory years (1993-2011), Virginia Tech finished the season with less than nine wins four times. That’s four times in 19 years. This season will mark the fourth straight in which the Hokies fail to meet the nine-win mark. And to reiterate — keeping in mind that reaching a bowl game is no guarantee at this point — it’s possible that no player on the current roster was even alive the last time VT missed out on the postseason.
In fact, Virginia Tech is expected to stay at home during the bowl season in 2015. ESPN’s Football Power Index (FPI) currently projects the Hokies to finish the regular season 5-7 (3-5), losing to Georgia Tech and North Carolina in Weeks 12 and 13. That does, however, include a win against Boston College, where they hold a 62.5 percent chance to win as 2.5-point favorites.
“For us, right now, we’re not making the College Football Playoff,” quarterback Michael Brewer said. “That’s not happening. Who knows with the ACC run? That doesn’t look great at the moment, but right now, we’re trying to beat Boston College, get to a good bowl game and finish this year off the right way.”
But if Virginia Tech is to lose to the Eagles on Saturday afternoon, it would only make sense for Beamer to step down. He can look to two other widely successful coaches that were in similar positions for confirmation.
South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier, 70, retired after the Gamecocks started 2-4 this season, citing that he was no longer the “best coach” for the job. Just two years prior, South Carolina was wrapping up its third straight 11-win season; but things began to slide, and the team won nine of its next 19 games.
Like Spurrier, UCF head coach George O’Leary, who is also 69, retired in the middle of the season after an 0-8 start. If you can recall, the Knights went 12-1 with a Fiesta Bowl victory over Baylor in 2013, and 9-4 in 2014. It was clear that the program was bracing for a rebuilding phase, and O’Leary knew he wasn’t the right guy to get things back on track.
Resigning now would give longtime defensive coordinator (and likely interim coach) Bud Foster — who has patiently held his position since 1995 — at least three games to show Hokie nation how he would run a program, and if necessary, would provide the athletic department a head start in the search for an outside replacement.
“It’s going to be a real test for our football team to come back from disappointment and go up there and play what’s going to take a great football game to beat Boston College,” Beamer said. “That’s the real challenge this week.”
Depending on the outcome of Saturday’s contest, Beamer’s next biggest challenge might be accepting the fact that “what’s best for Virginia Tech” means to mutually part ways with his legacy before it becomes too late.