Inside HOKIE SPORTS | Vol. 12 No. 3 | January 2020

A trip to the hospital in November of 2018 probably solidified his decision to get out of the business. Hours after a loss to Pittsburgh, Foster felt poorly, and his heart was racing. His wife, Jessie, rushed him to the emergency room at Carilion New River Valley Medical Center in Radford. The urgency with which the doctors worked on him let him know the seriousness of the situation. Those doctors were able to get his heart back into rhythm, and Foster reported back to work shortly afterward. Tech’s sports medicine staff made him coach from the press box for the remainder of the season just to keep tabs on him. That incident, though, put fear into the Hokies’ fearless coach, and after searching his soul for several months following the season, he made his decision. “I knew I had a couple of more years to give potentially, but it was just that thing scared me,” Foster admitted. “I’ve had some anxiety the last few years, and I’m sure that led to my heart issues a little bit. We’ve got that in check right now, which is a good thing. I was thinking about what I was going to do. You’re 60 years old, and once you get beyond on that, it just takes a lot—a lot of time investment. I just really thought, ‘Can I give to the kids and to the program what it takes to do that?’ Having that heart deal, that really just put it in perspective.” Foster spent a lot of time over the past few weeks of the season putting his career into perspective. Interestingly, he got into coaching almost by accident and then spent four decades doing it. After a standout career as a linebacker at Murray State from 1977-80, Foster anticipated going to work for his dad, who owned a hardware store in his hometown of Nokomis, Illinois. But his dad sold the store, leaving Foster thinking, “What am I going to do?” He got his teaching certification as a fallback plan, but his student teaching experience left him searching for alternative paths. “I did my student teaching at a middle school, and I was like, ‘I ain’t doing this stuff,’” Foster laughed. One of the coaches on Murray State’s staff suggested that Foster talk with Frank Beamer, then Murray State’s defensive coordinator, about a role, and Beamer agreed to carve out a position for him. Because he played as a true freshman, Foster had an extra year and used the 1981 season to finish his coursework and to help the staff. Truthfully, he became the Renaissance man among the coaches. “I was the academic liaison, believe it or not,” Foster said, again laughing. “They named me recruiting coordinator. I was in charge of the equipment room. Just different things like that. He [Beamer] gave me responsibilities, and the more we moved forward and he trusted me, the more he gave me. I think that’s what he saw in me—a guy that cared about the kids and cared about football and had a good football IQ, but was also a hard worker. I was going to go above and beyond and make whatever I was doing the best we could do. I think that’s why he brought me along. That’s one of the best things that happened in my life—meeting Frank Beamer.” After that season, Beamer, who became Murray State’s head coach after Mike Gottfried took the job at Cincinnati, kept Foster on as a A large, rubber trash can sat in the middle of his office, halfway filled with dusty papers, ragged binders and such. Two large plastic storage tubs sat to the right of his desk, both filled with potential keepsakes for his children and grandchildren. A coach can accumulate a lot over the course of more than three decades on the job, and as Bud Foster cleaned out his office a week before Christmas, he found installation sheets from 1996—his first season as Virginia Tech’s sole defensive coordinator—game plans, mission statements and goals that went into past lunch pails before each season, and presentations for high school coaching clinics. He found a 1987 Hokie Huddler, which he placed in the “keep” bin, of course. Rummaging through a drawer, he found a photo of his mom and dad, perhaps a heaven-sent gift considering Foster’s mom, Janice, passed away days following the Hokies’ loss to Virginia to end the regular season. Perhaps it was his mom’s passing, or the Christmas season, or the nearing of the end to a wonderful 39-year career spent coaching, teaching, and more importantly, mentoring young men. Perhaps it was a combination of all those things, but on this particular Thursday afternoon, the high-energy, intense Foster found himself in a reflective mood, flooded with waves of memories, as he flipped through old and fraying depth charts, practice plans and grade sheets. “Yeah, some of it makes you go through memory lane a little bit,” Foster said, leaning back in his familiar chair. Before the season, back in August, Foster announced that he planned to retire after the 2019 season, marking the end of his 33 seasons at Tech. Truthfully, most of the reaction to his announcement bordered on disbelief or denial. After all, not Bud Foster. He just turned 60 in July. Surely there was plenty of time to draw up more zone blitzes and concoct varying man-to-man concepts. But Foster never wavered after making his life-altering decision. Not even after the Hokies’ season-saving victory at Miami. Not after his group’s outstanding performance against a solid Wake Forest team on the day that the athletics department recognized his career accomplishments. Not even after back-to-back shutouts toward the end of the regular season. Foster certainly hasn’t lost it. And those performances would, understandably, give a pending retiree reasons to second guess a decision. Not Foster. “No, not at all,” he said. “Obviously, I’m going to miss a lot of things. I’m not going to miss some things. Obviously, I’m not old, but I’m not young either in this business. I think the biggest thing last year was having a couple of health scares with a couple of heart episodes, and that really probably was the deciding factor. “I’ve had some anxiety issues the last few years, and that just kind of mounted. I think there comes a time when your body tells you that you’ve been in a lot of fourth quarters. There have been a lot of long hours, a lot of investment, so now is maybe the time to enjoy life a little bit … It [coaching] just takes such effort to do what we do, and I’ve done it for a long, long time. I’m not having any regrets or second thoughts at all.” Do I have regrets about not being a head coach? No. Did I want to do that? Yes. I was extremely selective with what I wanted. We were playing here at the highest level, we were on TV every time we played, we were competing for championships every year. We went through a 15-year stretch where we were as good as anybody in the country. I didn’t feel like I needed to take a step back to take another step forward. So I don’t have any regrets that way. Bud Foster on staying at Virginia Tech over the years. “ ” IHS extra Continued on page 20 19