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September 12, 2011

Beamer extension ensures stability into the future for Tech

By: Bill Roth

On Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016, the University of Wisconsin Badgers are scheduled to run out of Lane Stadium’s southeast tunnel onto Worsham Field in Blacksburg. And now, it’s safe to say that on that very same day, when Virginia Tech takes the field from the stadium’s north end zone, the Hokies will be led by legendary head coach Frank Beamer.

Beamer, who has just started his 25th season as the head coach of the Hokies, recently agreed to an extension through the 2016 season at Tech, an announcement that thrilled students, players and boosters alike.

“It made me happy, too,” Tech’s Director of Athletics Jim Weaver said with a smile. “We want Frank Beamer here, and we’re excited that we can announce this extension right now.”

Beamer’s current contract will expire on December 31, 2012. The new one will take effect in January of 2013 and run through December of 2016.

“The new contract includes a series of retention incentives,” Weaver said. “There is a built-in $100,000 annual increase, and we’ve created a position for Coach Beamer within our athletics department where he can continue to serve our program.”

Weaver said the position – Special Assistant to the Athletics Director – is Beamer’s when his coaching career is over, but added that Beamer may coach long past 2016.

“We have this in place, we have it in writing now, that when Coach Beamer decides he wants to retire from coaching, he has a position within our program to help in fundraising and other areas where he can continue to contribute,” Weaver said. “But there’s nothing here saying he can’t or won’t coach past the 2016 season. We want him to coach here as long as he’d like.”

Weaver said he and Beamer began working on a new four-year extension back in January, and the coach agreed that 2016, which will be Beamer’s 30th season at Tech, sounded appropriate.

“I’m appreciative of Jim and of the university for their support and for wanting me to stick around,” Beamer said with his typically modest and humble delivery.

In a way, the news is perhaps more calming than it is exciting for Hokie fans.

Beamer is ninth on the all-time wins list in the history of the sport. He’s already zoomed by Bo Schembechler and Woody Hayes and is approaching the rarified stratosphere of Bear Bryant, Pop Warner and Amos Alonzo Stagg. “A lot of old guys,” Beamer joked. The year 2016 would be his 30th season at Tech and most fans hope he can make it to a 40th.

While Beamer’s departure is inevitable, it is now far enough down the road to ease any anxiety among Tech supporters and eliminate any negative recruiting by Tech’s rivals. Five years is an eternity in the college football coaching profession, and everyone from Chestnut Hill to Coral Gables knows there’s no guarantee that any of the current ACC head coaches will still be in his current spot in 2016.

After all, 10 of the 12 schools in the ACC have changed coaches within the past five years. Only Beamer and Wake Forest’s Jim Grobe were coaching in the ACC in 2006.

But as long as he’s healthy – and Tech continues to enjoy its on-field success – Beamer’s desire to coach remains strong. He enjoys winning more than ever, and his competitive nature burns hotter now than when he first arrived in Blacksburg for the 1987 season.

“I really thank my staff, and that means my assistants and everyone in our program who has stayed here,” Beamer said. “We’ve had an administration that’s been very supportive. When we had some lean days back when we started, they stuck with us. And they’ve been supportive in terms of facilities and other things, as we’ve gone along. I’ve said we’re all in this together, and it’s not just me. I’m just honored to be the guy whom the university feels is the best guy to be the coach.”

We don’t know who will replace Beamer, or when that change will occur.

But we do know this: at the end of that 2016 season, in late November when UVa visits Lane Stadium on Thanksgiving weekend, Beamer will be leading his 30th Tech team onto Worsham Field.

That’s a long time from now, and from my seat, that’s a good thing.

Tech visit to Marshall a return to the past

Virginia Tech is getting set to play a football game at Marshall University in Huntington, W.Va., for the first time since 1940. As you know, the two schools are intimately linked to the most horrific air tragedy in American sports history.

On November 14, 1970, a Southern Airways DC-9 was flying the Marshall football team and staff back to Huntington from a road game at East Carolina. On a miserable, rainy and foggy evening, the plane approached Huntington’s Tri-State airport too low, clipped some trees, and crashed roughly two miles short of the runway. It exploded on impact, killing everyone on board. The team, coaches, staff and many community leaders perished in the crash.

As we know, two Hokies – Rick Tolley and Frank Loria – were on that plane. Tolley, a former Tech football and baseball player, was the Thundering Herd’s head coach. Loria, one of Tech’s greatest players ever, was Marshall’s offensive coordinator.

I asked Coach Beamer once, “If Frank Loria was still around, would he be on your coaching staff?”

Beamer’s response? “Actually, I’d probably be on his staff here at Tech.”

Loria was a teammate of Beamer’s in the 1960s. The two started together in the Hokies’ defensive backfield. Loria was a first-team All-American defensive back whose jersey – No. 10 – has been retired. After his playing career, Loria got into coaching and was named offensive coordinator at Marshall University.

“He was really bright. Very sharp,” Beamer said. “He would’ve had a very successful coaching career.”

Tolley also was a remarkable coach. He led Ferrum to the 1968 national junior college national championship, and seven of his players went with him to Marshall. Those seven also perished in the crash. To this day, Ferrum’s “Big Green” award, which is given annually to a senior Panther football player who best demonstrates the qualities of courage, hustle, and desire as a role model for his fellow teammates, is the highest honor given to a Panthers player. (Read more here:

The Thundering Herd has visited Blacksburg three times in recent years (2002, 2005 and 2009), but next week’s game in Huntington will be the Hokies’ first trip there in 71 years, so it will be an emotional time for folks on both sides.

There’s still a lot of pain for folks at both schools (plus at Ferrum) who will watch this game closely. It will be a good day to pay tribute to the memories of some very special people who were taken from us far too soon.

Here is Coach Tolley’s bio from the 1970 Marshall Media guide:

Here is Frank Loria’s bio from the 1970 Marshall Media guide: