Frank Beamer’s new contract with VT looks like a winner all the way around. Jim Weaver locked Beamer up for seven
years for a price that is reasonable now and will be a bargain in just a few years. The assistants are getting a boost,
and the all-important continuity, not just in coaching but in all other aspects of the Virginia Tech program, will be
First, the basics: Frank Beamer has a new seven-year deal that will pay him a guaranteed $2.008 million a year —
what that extra $8,000 is for is anybody’s guess — and will probably compensate him in the area of $2.1-$2.3 million a
year, once incentives, mainly bowl-based, are added in. Beamer will be at Virginia Tech through at least 2012, and the
contract has a clause that enables him to extend it three more years to 2015, if he so chooses.
This contract negotiation came without the drama of the 2000 negotiations, which went so awry that Beamer nearly
bolted for UNC. In the end, it was clearly established in November of 2000 who the alpha male in the athletic department
is, so we all knew where this latest round of talks was headed. There was some anxiety from the Hokie fan base along the
way, along with a few transparent attempts from some quarters to whip that fan base into a frenzy with carefully timed
leaks and hints about how the negotiations were going poorly. Not a soul actually bought the Beamer-to-Kentucky rumors
that circulated a few weeks back, because it would have been career suicide for Jim Weaver and the Virginia Tech
administration to let Beamer get away.
All the posing and growling by both sides in this negotiation, some of which made it to the public, was just for
show. This deal was going to get done, period. In the same way that nuclear war was the unthinkable alternative for the
United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, the Armageddon that would have occurred in the event of a Beamer
departure didn’t make sense for either side.
Beamer turns 59 next Tuesday, and we now know that he’ll be at VT until he’s at least 66, maybe until he’s (gulp) 69.
I’ll admit that two years ago, at the conclusion of the 2003 season, I would not have thought that was a good thing. But
as he has done so many times before, Beamer reevaluated things and reinvented himself and his team and has come back
stronger than ever, winning an ACC championship in 2004 and piloting the Hokies to a #3 ranking so far this season.
Frank Beamer has been a regular chameleon throughout the years, showing an uncanny ability to learn from his mistakes
and do what’s necessary to take the next step. After a tough stretch from 2001-2003 that included late-season collapses
each season, leading to criticism that he had become set in his ways to the detriment of the program, Beamer took
control of the team and his coaching staff and roared back stronger than ever. He’s now on a roll, enjoying almost
unconditional respect and dedication from the fan base, his coaches, and the VT administration.
That could all change with a few losses, but for now, the decision by the VT administration to lock Beamer into his
longest-term contract yet — previous deals were five years and rolled over automatically — appears to be a smart one.
There are a handful of head coaches in the NCAA making $2 million or more a year, so it’s not an unprecedented amount,
particularly for a coach whose team has become a fixture in the top ten and won four conference championships from
1995-2004. By 2010, that $2 million a year will be a bargain.
Less than a year from now, Beamer’s nine assistants will be making $1.4 million a year, up from their current pay
level of $1.2 million a year. That’s also fair market value. According to a September
14th article in the Raleigh News and Observer, seven of the ACC’s eight public schools pay their assistant coaching
staffs more than $1 million a year, seven SEC schools paid on average $1.3 million to their full-time assistants in
2004, and Texas’ coaching staff was scheduled to make a reported $1.75 million in combined salary this season.
The deal comes at a time when Beamer is in a groove. Beamer understands the college game better than most and
understands what it takes to win at Virginia Tech. He understands that promoting team chemistry, team unity, and a
family atmosphere can take a team that has good-but-not-great talent like VT and push them to win conference
championships. That folksy approach wouldn’t play in the revolving-door NFL, but it works in college, especially at
Beamer understands how to recruit, by building relationships with high school coaches around the state that outlast
the impact of any given player at any given time, and never being so arrogant about Virginia Tech as to overextend his
Beamer understands the importance of continuity in his coaching staff, and for the most part, he abhors changes in
his staff. He takes steps to foster (pardon the expression) loyalty in his staff, and he gets it.
Seven more years of Frank Beamer means that the Virginia Tech program will have continuity in momentum and
fundraising, as well as general peace of mind. There’s still a feeling among many Hokie fans that Virginia Tech football
is what it is because of Frank Beamer, and there might never be another coach who can reach the heights Beamer has
reached in Blacksburg. That worry — of trying to fit another guy into the unique situation in Southwest Virginia and
seeing if it will work — can be put to rest for the better part of the next decade. That means that the recruiting will
keep going strong, the facilities will continue to improve, and the dollars will continue to flow into the program. Not
just dollars for the football program, but dollars for all those other sports programs that are now striving to be
competitive in the ACC.
History tells us that an extra seven years will also get Beamer at least one more good shot at a national
championship run. He fielded one undefeated team in 1999, and several others, in 1995, 1996, 2000, and 2004, came close.
This year’s edition of the Hokies is also giving it a go. With all he’s done at Virginia Tech, the national championship
has to be the one thing that calls Beamer back to coach year after year. It’s a more difficult path now, with VT’s
membership in the 12-team ACC, but like any head coach, Beamer enjoys the challenge and wants to be the best.
Last year’s ACC championship was critical in earning Beamer a pass on future difficulties. Just when it looked as if
he was losing his grip on the program, Beamer righted the ship, and the next time the Hokies post a four-loss or
five-loss season, references to the program’s comeback in 2004 ought to quell the naysayers.
It’s easy to say these things when the program has won 16 of its last 19 games, but this new contract is the right
move at the right time. All systems are go for Hokie football to steam into the next decade, full speed ahead.