Good afternoon, and thank you all for being here. I have to admit I stand before you with a heavy heart today. I had hoped we would not reconvene again so soon after the last time we were together, but I have to admit I am not surprised to be here today. Thank you all for honoring our request of wearing maroon and orange ties. That was a nice touch.
If you’ll indulge me, friends, please close your eyes for a moment and imagine Frank Beamer not as a football coach, but as a business and marketing genius well ahead of his time.
What was Virginia Tech football before Frank returned to his alma mater in 1987? I submit to you they were a program that wore Thanksgiving colors with a Thanksgiving mascot that spent most fall Saturdays getting served for dinner. In 95 years of football, Virginia Tech had finished ranked inside the Associated Press Top 25 only twice. That’s twice as many bowl victories the Hokies notched over that span. The success they did enjoy was wiped away due to NCAA violations. That’s why Dale Baughman brought Frank home in the first place, and I hope you think a good thought for Mr. Baughman today.
What Frank brought to Virginia Tech football, to Virginia Tech as a whole, was an identity. It’s tough defense. It’s Michael Vick lighting your idea of what a quarterback could be on fire. It’s Thursday night games. It’s Lane Stadium. It’s the idea that opponents far and wide would clutch their chests and call their mothers before going to a small city in southwest Virginia. It’s “Enter Sandman.” And, at the base of all that, it’s Beamer Ball.
There have been thousands and thousands of people over these centuries coach the game of football, but only one has put his name on it. I submit to you, friends, that Beamer Ball was Moneyball before we knew what Moneyball was. What is that that the baseball general managers like to say when they get together every winter to talk about how smart they are? Yes, it’s “market inefficiencies.” Frank found those before Billy Beane and Theo Epstein were out of high school. Frank didn’t just pay lip service to special teams, he dominated you with them. He figured out he could win games with his offense and his defense on the sidelines, and win games he did.
At a place whose entire history could fit on the back of the program we gave you when you walked in here today, Frank built a powerhouse. He posted his first top 25 finish in 1993, and he won his first Big East championship and his first major bowl game in 1995, and he never looked back. At a school that played in six bowl games over 40 years, Frank has taken them to 22 in a row. In the 17 seasons between 1993 and 2011, Virginia Tech won or shared nine conference or division championships, and finished outside the top 25 only three times. He finished in the top 10 seven times and played for the national championship in 1999. And I know there would be a lot of people mad at me today if I didn’t mention the 15 wins in 16 years against Virginia.
I like to call Frank a program patriarch, and he was a father in every sense of the word. Our friend Pete pointed out that 25 sets of brothers played for Frank, and most of them are here today. I look to how much his son Shane cherished playing for him and enjoys working for him. I remember how he helped us all through the shooting in 2007, and I remember how he put this entire university, as they say, on the map.
And then, friends, he stayed. This university stuck to him when it could have turned elsewhere, and in turn, he stayed when he could have gone elsewhere. Instead of leaving for another job, he turned Virginia Tech into the type of job other coaches leave their jobs for. He transformed the Hokies from fly-by-night to fixture. From wandering through the college football universe as an independent to an entrenched member of the ACC. From nowhere to somewhere.
In an industry that breeds megalomaniacs, Frank maintained his humanity throughout. Many in his station have turned their status as the most recognizable person in a place short on them and cultivate their own fiefdoms. Frank didn’t. Many of his colleagues pay lip service to bowing out at the right time and hang on for six years too long. Frank didn’t. He was one of the few to say he’d leave when it was time, and then actually leave when the time arrived.
I remember all that, and I am left with only one conclusion: there will never be another coach, here or anywhere else, like Frank Beamer.
And I leave you, today, friends, the way Frank would want. The only way I know how.