The Virginia Tech Friday Q&A: Culture Shocks and NIL Opportunities

Virginia Tech
Frank Beamer inherited a program that was used to winning, but Virginia Tech had other issues. (Jon Fleming)

1) “We got to hate losing” is pretty damning. Any anecdotes from “Turn Up The Wick” that reflect Beamer’s effort to do something similar? – st_andrew

Chris Coleman: No, Frank Beamer inherited a different situation when he arrived at Virginia Tech. He actually inherited a program that was used to having winning records, which isn’t generally the case when the previous coach got fired.

Here were Bill Dooley’s records in the seven seasons before Frank Beamer was hired…

1980: 8-4
1981: 7-4
1982: 7-4
1983: 9-2
1984: 8-4
1985: 6-5
1986: 10-2-1
Totals: 55-25-1

The Hokies were coming off a 10-win season and the program’s first ever bowl victory. Sure, Tech didn’t play the toughest of schedules back then, but the Hokies were used to winning.

Beamer’s biggest issues when he took over were the program going on probation, and so may key returners from 1986 immediately going on academic probation. Here’s a quote from Turn Up The Wick from Beamer about an incident immediately after he got hired…

“I know I received quite a jolt my first week on the job, and Dutch [Baughman] came into my office.

“We’re having lunch today with the Deans,” he said.

I said, “Hey, great.”

We went over to Hillcrest, which was the athletic dorm at the time, to meet them for lunch and went through the buffet line. There were maybe 20 people in this room. We sat down and I had my salad. Just my salad; I was going to go back and get my main course.

I started to take my first bite, and that’s when they started telling me everything that was wrong with the football system at Virginia Tech – how academics were out of whack, everything.

I promise you, this went on for 20 minutes, and I’m still there holding my form with the lettuce hanging from it, waiting to take my first bite – and never took it.”

In Beamer’s first game, a 22-10 loss to Clemson, the Hokies were without six guys due to academics, including star defensive tackle Horacio Moronta.

Bill Dooley was apparently running his program like an SEC program (or UNC maybe, haha). Grades were bad, and all of that. However, they had won plenty of football games, so I don’t think there was anything wrong culturally from a pure football standpoint.

Virginia Tech
Brent Pry is trying to change the culture at Virginia Tech. (Virginia Tech sports photography)

2) So, and please be candid here… what kind of culture has Pry honestly inherited — and what can he do to therapy it prior to a dicey looking opener at ODU? As players refusing to play a different spot is bottoms-up at best, or near seditious at worst. – bourbonstreet

CC: For reference, b-street is referring to this article that I wrote on Wednesday. Give it a read if you haven’t already, because it’s got some pretty forthcoming quotes from Brent Pry.

From a purely selfish standpoint, I’m glad Pry said all of that. I’ve spent the last 1-2 years writing about how I believe there is a cultural problem in the Virginia Tech football program. I took it from the buy-in angle, but view it through whatever lens you want. I’m just glad Pry said it. I was starting to feel like the bad cop, with no good cop to balance things out. It’s good to know that Pry is capable of being a bad cop when he feels like he needs to do so. That was sorely missing within the program, in my opinion.

As to the comments themselves, I was not surprised. Back in 2014, I wrote an article called “The Dangers of Falling Into The Habit of Losing”. In that article, I pointed out that the Hokies had lost 13 of their last 30 football games, and I was growing so used to losing that losses weren’t hurting me anymore.

“As people, we tend to not be bothered by things we grow accustomed to.”

That’s one of my lines from the article, and that’s probably true. A human being can adapt to just about anything, and that includes losing. Football players get used to losing, if they lose long enough, and eventually a losing mentality becomes engrained in the program that is very difficult to overcome.

Fortunately, a losing mentality doesn’t exist at Virginia Tech. A .500 mentality exists at Virginia Tech, and there is a difference. You can snap out of that mindset relatively quickly, I think. Justin Fuente’s tenure at Virginia Tech was not a success, but his first couple of years were very good. We can use them to take a lesson that big improvements can be made quickly to a .500 football team.

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The Hokies were basically a .500 team towards the end of the Frank Beamer era. In Justin Fuente’s first year they won 10 games, won the Coastal, and nearly upset Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. In 2017 they won nine games and again put a solid product on the field. Things turned around pretty quickly, though unfortunately Fuente could not sustain it over time. Still, we can look to 2016 and 2017 as direct examples that things can change quickly for the positive.

I don’t think Pry has inherited a bad culture. I just think he’s inherited a .500 culture. That’s not great, but neither is it bad. I’m completely at peace with everything he said yesterday, and I agree with him that installing a better mentality among the players is step one. Whether that happens in one offseason or two remains to be seen, but I’m pleased that he’s identified that as priority number one.

I expected some hiccups during the transition from Justin Fuente to Brent Pry. I’ve been writing for the last several months that some players are in for a big-time culture shock. That is apparently happening, and we shouldn’t worry about it. In fact, we should be pleased. If they weren’t getting a culture shock, then that would mean that the culture isn’t changing, which in turn would mean more mediocre seasons.

I believe that it’s important to be transparent in cases like this. I don’t just mean transparency with the players, but I mean transparency with the fan base.  We need to know exactly where Virginia Tech is as a football program right now. That’s the only way for everyone to get on the same page, and the only way for everyone to start pulling in the right direction. I much prefer this approach than being fed a bunch of propaganda nonsense.

I love the process. Don’t get me wrong, I want to win, and I want to win as soon as possible. But for the best long-term solution for Virginia Tech football, it’s important to not skip steps. If we have to endure some short-term pains to get long-term positive answers, then I’m all in.

Hokies Exchange
(graphic via

3) Watch the video in the link below. Can we even come close anymore? I know the answer, but I need hope…. it’s not becoming fun anymore watching college football. This is at Nebraska, and they stink. And it was kind of shocking to hear how far Texas is behind them. Big Ten money, man. – VT Pez4Life

CC: VT Pez4Life is referring to this video of a Nebraska football player telling Barstool Sports that he transferred to Nebraska from Texas because there are better NIL opportunities for Cornhusker football players. (warning…there is some harsh language in the video)

I’ll be honest. I’m a little bit tired of being negative about NIL. If we choose to continue to piss and moan over something that is out of our control, then we’re not going to have a lot of fun. Instead, I’m going to adopt a different approach. I think we should follow the lead of Nebraska fans and get behind NIL. Hokie fans should view NIL as a great opportunity to make their program better.

Nebraska fans are the best fans in college football, in my opinion. They pack that stadium each and every week, even if they aren’t any good, which is most years these days. Compare them to Florida State fans. Both programs are fallen powers who have followed the same trajectory. The difference is that Nebraska fans keep showing up in huge numbers to support their team, while you can hear a pin drop in Doak Campbell Stadium.

Nebraska fans care deeply about their football program. They want to win. With NIL, they now have a legal way of directly impacting the results on the field. I’m not saying that Virginia Tech can match Nebraska in numbers, but I do think we have a great opportunity against our ACC competition. We simply care more about football than most of the rest of the ACC, and I think it’s time to take advantage of that.

I personally am very appreciative of Virginia Tech Athletes. If it weren’t for football and men’s basketball, I wouldn’t have a job. Well, I’d have a job…just a different job. I probably wouldn’t be living in Blacksburg, and I’d probably be working some generic job where I couldn’t do things like set my own schedule (within reason), etc. And there’s also a certain social status. Just last night I was walking from PKs to Champs as I was out watching basketball, and this college kid came up to me and said “Hey man, love the podcast!  You guys do a great job, I watch it every week.”

I appreciate things like that, and I realize that it wouldn’t happen without our football and basketball players. We’ve got a good product, certainly, but we’re making a lot of money right now on selling ACC Championship gear through Fanatics, and we wouldn’t be making that money without Justyn Mutts, Hunter Cattoor, etc. I owe those guys, and I don’t have a problem in the world with them being compensated.

But back to the main point. Virginia Tech has a very passionate fan base, and theoretically that means we have a better opportunity than most of our ACC competition to take advantage of NIL rules (or lack thereof). We care about football. UVA doesn’t. UNC doesn’t. UNC fans pretend to care whenever Mack Brown is their coach, but as soon as he retires, they won’t have the same enthusiasm. I see a great opportunity to kick their rear ends…if our fan base and big donors embrace that opportunity.

With NIL, every fanbase, and perhaps every individual fan, will encounter the fork in the road. One direction is that of negativity. “We can never compete. This system is broken. I’m never going to watch again.” The other direction is one of opportunity. “We have a chance to show our players that we appreciate them. We have a chance to directly compete with other fan bases and prove that we are better than them.” I’m choosing to take the latter fork. Let’s kick their butts.

27 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Love this one, Chris. “I love the process.” That’s the attitude. We have to love the process.

    Of course, they love the process at Alabama (and elsewhere too). And it’s the process that takes you where you need to go.

    Not that VT is Alabama or (maybe) even Clemson.

    And that’s so right: we’re at a .500 mentality. Not where we want to be, obviously. We just fired our coach. But not a ship that can’t be righted.

    1. Bonus: you used the term “piss and moan.” Which, I mean. Anytime you can say “piss and moan” on the internet, I’m all for it.

      Love your work, man. You’re good at what you do, and you’re sharp as a tack. Don’t really know what I think about Hokie athletics until I read you or hear you on the podcast.

    2. Regarding NIL: right, I’m trying to buy a house right now. Which is insane. The market is about to crash and I’m going to overpay and yadda yadda. But I gotta pay to play. So I’ll do what I can do. Pay what I can pay. Make as smart a choice as I can make, with what I got to pay. Hokies aren’t rich. But we’re not poor. We can pay what we need to pay to have all of what we need and most of what we want.

      What more could anyone want? And in God’s country — a place more beautiful than almost any other? I mean. Life is good, right?

    1. Hendon Hooker is getting 7 figures to play QB at Tennessee next year>>>>

      Has anyone heard how these kids are paying their income taxes?

      Also – since there is no withholding – they will have to pay quarterly estimated in 2022. In addition – they have to pay both sides of FICA as a self-employed individual. Wonder how much his family members are getting? .

      1. If he is getting 1 mil, I expect he is getting fairly good tax advice and support as well.

    2. smart $$$ is $100k for everybody on the OL + DL

      pennies on the dollar

      Also a punter and a kicker

      Not kidding

  2. “I’ll be honest. I’m a little bit tired of being negative about NIL. If we choose to continue to piss and moan over something that is out of our control, then we’re not going to have a lot of fun.”

    Chris, you’re a great writer. I look forward to all of your pieces and always read them with interest and pleasure. If I may, I take a little bit of an exception to your comment above and realize that there may be a generational disconnect of some sort. I’m class of ’66, going back to the Schweikert/Utz/Claiborne era, and look at things a little differently. My opinion is that NIL and the portal have take a lot of the joy out of watching college football. A whole lot of the joy in the Old Days was loyalty to the the team and the school and I think this extended throughout the Beamer years. Now, a whole lot of that joy is gone and it’s just not as much fun with players coming and going at will (no pun intended) and getting paid, in some cases, 6 figures to play. Even Will has said that it is now impossible for VT to win a national championship and we must settle for lesser goals. It’s not obvious to me how that is a good thing.

    1. We can win games we really want to win. It still matters.

      And they way it was before wasn’t right.

      We can figure this out and do it in a reasonable, responsible way. We’re Hokies, dammit. That’s what Hokies do.

      (Respect where you’re coming from, btw. I get it. But rooting for these college kids gives me great joy, and doing it with all y’all is what makes it so joyful. So I hope to ratchet up folks’ enthusiasm for this new era — keeping in mind it was never as pure as we wanted to think it was.)

    2. I am class of ’67 and understand and agree with your thoughts completely! But NIL and Portal are here and won’t go away. I guess we will just have to deal with pro college football as a fact for the future.

  3. IMHO this is going to hurt the athletic department because those contributing to NIL funds will likely reduce their contribution to the athletic departments. This article condemns Dooley and rightfully so but Corporations outside of school control having control of NIL funds without accountability or oversight has the potential and probably will make Dooley look like a saint. These groups though outside the control of the school will have tremendous power over the image of each college. Money and power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. AS it is today It is a black hole. Paying students to play college sports I have some issues with but not so much if we calculate their pay including tuition room and board tutors special meals separate dorm, etc.

  4. Concur. The hard thing is how to do it smart…how to set up a non profit donation and investment strstegy and dispersement strategy

    I think u got to get the right innovative trustful leader who will do things right but entreprenuel. Also protocols on who gets what and how much and how u keep it confidential like any personnel mgt decisions.. while keeping it separate to vt athletics in regards to direct chain of command..

    Im sure many are working it…sorta like setc for wrestling but on steroids. Worse thing is get staff who has no experience in professional sports college and solicitation of donation

    The power of a vt nil structure can be community based . Places like uva and unc and duke have huge corporate tie in with graduates in major investment centers. But for a nil structure benefits generated by 26k contributors is more significant for player branding than a a couple of donors who jiust write a check and dont want to be associated.

    Side note:: nil could be ok for acc if leveraged. Acc has some of the best business commerce insitutions in the nation and generate many ceo of fortune 500 and financial institutions. If acc schools could leverage these relationships- you never know.

    This could be fun but its high risk and its more than selling sugar cookies

  5. We can pretend to care about NIL all we want but until some rich Hokies step up and open their wallets it won’t mean squat.

  6. Don’t think UNC will not have a well funded NIL. They will be supporting their basketball teams.

  7. I want to finance a dobbleganger NIL. Someone who looks like start athlete at TX wears a TX hat and tshirt and trash talks the entire school and team. Lets take fake news to the next level.

  8. Beamer inherited a football team about to go on probation for two years that included a loss of 25 scholarships a year and you say everything seemed culturally fine? You should dig up the NCAA’s infraction report on the corrupt mess Dooley had created in Blacksburg. Beamer inherited a nightmare, while Pry is inheriting a dream opportunity.

    1. Right, lots of major issues for Frank. Which is why he’s the VT GOAT.

      But I think what Chris is saying is the mentality of the players he inherited was different. They’d won a fair amount of football games, and expected to do so. They didn’t give a crap about a lot of stuff they should’ve given a crap about. But they cared about winning football games. More than average, anyway.

      Frank’s task was different. That’s all.

  9. What I want to know is if you had to put b-streets question into English or has he been pulling our leg all of these years? Good question.

  10. How can individual fans help with NIL funding? Can an entity like Tech Sideline create opportunities in clothing or other player endorsed gear that Virginia Tech fans can buy with a portion of the proceeds going to the player? I’m willing to do my part but I don’t know how to help.

    1. Was thinking about the same thing. TSL administered fund that fans could contribute to pay players for podcast appearances. Seems like a win-win-win.

      1. Sit tight. Folks are doing things that will give the average fan the opportunity to contribute.

  11. appreciate the take on the NIL. i hadn’t considered that while our fanbase may not catch Bama/Georgia/Ohio State, our fans SHOULD be able to out-NIL more than half of the apathetic ACC

  12. Your UNC joke was right on point and factual (all joking aside). VT hired Dooley from UNC precisely to repeat what he had done/ was doing at UNC the previous 9 years. He led UNC to 3 ACC championships and I believe he is still UNC’s longest tenured coach.

    In addition, by combining athletic director and head football coach, he had that much more of an opportunity to do things the “Carolina Way” without anyone looking over his shoulder.

    Of course, stealing UNC’s coach almost came back to bite us when Beamer almost went to UNC. In addition, there was at least one bowl game that VT and Dooley were supposedly lined up for before UNC refused to play VT in the bowl (Sun Bowl?). Bad blood between UNC and VT goes back before we joined the ACC, although it was hidden simply because we refused to schedule each other.

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