Frank Beamer is a college football institution, and Virginia Tech solidified that status this week when it renamed Spring Road Beamer Way.
Given the recent trajectory of Hokies football, the symbolic gesture almost feels like the proverbial gold watch for a valued employee his last week on the job.
Frank Beamer is one of the game’s current elder statesmen at the age of 68, joining such contemporaries as Steve Spurrier, Nick Saban and Frank Solich.
But unlike them, Frank Beamer is synonymous with just one program. Solich’s winning tenure at Ohio, for example, always comes with the disclaimer that he was unceremoniously (and arguably, unfairly) run out of Nebraska.
Florida alum Spurrier has been at South Carolina nearly as long he coached his alma mater, after an abortive NFL stint. Saban’s eight years at Alabama equal less than one-third the time Frank Beamer’s spent at Virginia Tech, and that’s the longest Saban’s spent at any one stop.
When you think of maroon-and-orange, you think of Frank Beamer. It’s that simple. He is to Virginia Tech what Bear Bryant is to Alabama or Bo Schembechler is to Michigan.
Beamer’s career will be remembered for the good times, and not the current run of mediocrity the Hokies have endured. However, it’s unfortunate things have unfolded as they are now for the man who built Virginia Tech football.
Since winning 11 games and reaching the 2012 Sugar Bowl, Virginia Tech has endured finishes of 7-6, 8-5 and 7-6. Beamer has stayed above the .500 line, continuing on a streak that dates back to 1992.
That’s awfully impressive when you consider virtually every all-time powerhouse has finished below .500 in that time. Michigan and Texas did so just last year.
It’s consistency, sure; it’s just not the level of consistency we learned to expect of Frank Beamer when the Hokies ran off a streak of eight straight 10-plus-win seasons from 2004 through 2011, and 13-of-17 seasons from 1995 through 2011.
Virginia Tech has remained consistent in the qualities that made it a national powerhouse in those glory years.
An upset of Ohio State last September rekindled memories of Virginia Tech as a top-tier program, and the performance demonstrated “Beamer Ball” at its finest.
Of the Hokies’ four offensive touchdown drives that night in Columbus, all started inside Tech’s own 35-yard line. Beamer Ball is the ultimate football-as-chess, and against today’s most celebrated coach, Urban Meyer, Frank Beamer was Bobby Fisher.
And, despite last season’s luke-warm final record, the Hokies still ranked 14th nationally in scoring defense.
Credit Bud Foster, Frank Beamer’s longtime right-hand man and arguably the greatest defensive coordinator of all-time. Foster has been there for every one of those double-digit-win finishes since 1995, and has had ample opportunity to take on a head coaching if he wanted it.
That Foster has remained loyal to Virginia Tech for two decades speaks to Frank Beamer’s character, an oft-touted attribute of those who closely cover the Hokies.
That Beamer is so beloved makes Tech’s struggles in his coaching twilight all the more difficult.
As loyal as Foster’s been to Tech and to Frank Beamer, Beamer was loyal to offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring for a decade of declining production on that side of the ball.
The Hokies are in a tailspin, and current offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler appears no closer to pulling Tech out of it. To wit, the enduring image of Frank Beamer last season is him with arms raised at the end of scoreless regulation against Wake Forest.
Tech’s defense and special teams have remained at high level, but the offense is a long, long way from Michael Vick freelancing the Hokies to a BCS Championship Game berth.
A slew of injuries curtailed any progress Tech may have made the last two years, but Loeffler also hasn’t overseen a productive offense anywhere since his one year under Steve Addazio at Temple.
As former quarterbacks coach to Tim Tebow, Loeffler looking to work a miracle with Michael Brewer behind center this season. Until he does so, however, the 2015 season feels like something of a farewell tour for Frank Beamer.