A Balanced (and somewhat emotional) Perspective on Virginia Tech Football
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As the second half clock ticked down Saturday in a mostly empty BB&T Stadium, my emotions felt different from other losses. I have witnessed many wins and losses over the years and the varying emotions that accompany the result. This one, to me, felt like the end of an era (note to reader: please read on regardless of where you stand on this issue, the conclusion may surprise you).
Frank Beamer came to Blacksburg when I was a student at Virginia Tech. During his tenure, I have attended every home game minus one, countless away games, numerous “special games” (Kickoff Classics, Conference Championships), and 16 Bowl games. Usually, I have attended Hokie football games with my wife and three children in tow. In a nutshell, Virginia Tech football has and will always be an integral part of our lives.
My sons grew up during the Beamerball era and we have so many great memories to relish, mostly from the bowl trips. We have some great photos with our sons and Coach Beamer or his star players like Kam Chancellor, Macho Harris, or Kevin Jones. Needless to say, I have an emotional attachment to Hokie football and to Coach Beamer.
There is no way to deny the fact that the current state of the program is in decline. In my opinion, several factors have led to this, among those (in no particular order):
- Recruiting misses – our current roster, especially the upper classes, are not filled with the same caliber of players as in years past.
- Attrition – the last couple of years we have seen a dramatic and unprecedented amount of players leaving the program, off-season and even in-season.
- Schematic changes in college football – the college game has changed in many ways over the past few years. New punt formations have basically taken the blocked punt out of play. High-powered offenses have the edge over the defensive side of the ball. I think it is fair to say that the current college game does not match the coaching strengths of Coach Beamer.
I believe these negatives have been magnified by one really bad hire, offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler. We have all wanted so bad to have a new and improved offense. However, Loeffler’s offense has been dismal and seems to mimic his personality. Their play is methodical (not in a good way), uninspired, and desperately lacks cohesiveness. I fully realize that the offense is very challenged on the offensive line, but to the close observer, Loeffler’s unit has many other issues and is quickly regressing.
About midway thru this season, I started to think that Loeffler’s play calling was totally dictated by pre-game scripting. In other words, the success or failure of prior play calls seems to have no factor on calls later in the game. Coach Loeffler has absolutely no feel on game day. He seems to constantly outthink himself. His quote concerning Motley after the Wake Forest confirmed my belief. How bad is it? If you gave me a choice right now of Loeffler or Stinespring, I would take Stinespring in a second. At least his units played with some fire and intensity and cohesiveness.
End of an Era
When I stated in the beginning of the article that Saturday felt like the end of an era, you probably assumed I was talking about the end of the Beamer era, and in some ways I am. If Coach Beamer puts anyone, and I mean anyone, in charge of the offense other than Loeffler, I think the next year or two can produce fairly good results and I trust that Whit and Frank, both smart and honorable men, will agree to a successful transition plan that will enable Coach Beamer to go out with class and dignity. However, without a change to the offensive coordinator, all bets are off.
After much reflection, a more precise and accurate description is that we are witnessing the end of the golden era of Virginia Tech football. I trust that whenever the next head coach is hired to lead our football program, Whit Babcock will do us all proud and choose the right man to lead our program in the future. I also trust that Whit will make the right decision as to when this will occur. Whoever the next head coach is, he should be expected to lead us to winning seasons, to compete for the ACC Championship Game, to continue to dominate our in-state rival, and to continue the proud tradition of graduating players and winning with class.
However, what really aggravates and confounds me is the sentiment among many Hokie fans that all we need is a new head coach and like magic, we will automatically start winning 10 games a year again, going to major bowls, and be considered an elite program. This delusion is based on a popular revision of Coach Beamer’s tenure in Blacksburg. You all know the theory: all of the conference championships were won when the traditional powers were down, we never won any big games, what’s the big deal about winning 10 games a year, etc. etc. etc.
Let’s have a fair look at the facts. Since joining the ACC in 2004, the Hokies have four outright conference championships. If you go all the way back to 1990, only FSU has more than two championships and Clemson has exactly two (UVA has zero in over 60 years in the ACC). Of course the Beamer detractors will say that FSU and Miami were down, but someone had to carry the mantle. It could have been Clemson, NC State, UNC, Georgia Tech or even Maryland. It wasn’t. It was Virginia Tech!
Beyond our conference championships, yes, we have lost a lot of big games to big time programs over the years. I know. I was there. But I was also there when we beat Texas, Alabama, Tennessee, Nebraska, Texas A&M, LSU (coached by none other than Nick Saban), and Ohio State. We also took on the very best that college football has to offer, including national championship teams from Alabama, LSU, and USC. We were also selected by the TV networks to play in numerous kickoff classics. We earned the right to play in four Sugar Bowls and four Orange Bowls. This incredible run of success is due to many outstanding players and coaches. The Michael Vick era was definitely the most exciting period of Hokie football, but it only accounted for one of our eight major bowl appearances. Bud Foster’s defense has been the identity and foundation of the program. The Beamer detractors will say that Frank is ultimately responsible for the poor results of the offense. Yet, they fail to give him any credit for the defense. You can’t have it both ways. The common denominator in this glorious run is Frank Beamer’s leadership.
Frank is far from perfect. He isn’t the greatest coach of all time. It was a mistake by all, including Frank Beamer, to put so much focus on a National Championship. Below is a list of national champions in the modern era. How many Virginia Tech types do you see?
Georgia Tech (UPI)
|Orange: Beat Notre Dame 10-9
Citrus: Beat Nebraska 45-21
|1991||Orange: Beat Nebraska 22-0|
Rose: Beat Michigan 34-14
|Orange: Beat Nebraska 22-0
Rose: Beat Michigan 34-14
|1992||Alabama||13-0-0||Sugar: Beat Miami 34-13|
|1993||Florida State||12-1-0||Orange: Beat Nebraska 18-16|
|1994||Nebraska||13-0-0||Orange: Beat Miami, Fla. 24-17|
|1995||Nebraska||12-0-0||Fiesta: Beat Florida 62-24|
|1996||Florida||12-1||Sugar: Beat Florida St. 52-20|
|Rose: Beat Wash. St. 21-16
Orange: Beat Tennessee 42-17
|1998||Tennessee||13-0||Fiesta: Beat Florida St. 23-16|
|1999||Florida State||12-0||Sugar: Beat Va. Tech 46-29|
|2000||Oklahoma||13-0||Orange: Beat Florida St. 13-2|
|2001||Miami, Fla.||12-0||Rose: Beat Nebraska 37-14|
|2002||Ohio State||14-0||Fiesta: Beat Miami, Fla. 31-24 (2 ot)|
|2003||LSU (National Champs)|
USC (#1 in AP Poll)
|Sugar: Beat Oklahoma 21-14
Rose: Beat Michigan 28-14
|2004||USC||13-0||Orange: Beat Oklahoma 55-19|
|2005||Texas||13-0||Rose: Beat USC 41-38|
|2006||Florida||13-1||BCS Championship Game:
Beat Ohio State 41-14
|2007||LSU||12-2||BCS Championship Game:
Beat Ohio State 38-24
|2008||Florida||13-1||BCS Championship Game:
Beat Oklahoma 24-14
|2009||Alabama||14-0||BCS Championship Game:
Beat Texas 37-21
|2010||Auburn||14-0||BCS Championship Game:
Beat Oregon 22-19
|2011||Alabama||12-1||BCS Championship Game:
Beat LSU 21-0
|2012||Alabama||13-1||BCS Championship Game:
Beat Notre Dame 42-14
|2013||Florida State||14-0||BCS Championship Game:
Beat Auburn 34-31
National Champions will continue to come from a small number of programs: traditional SEC powers, Ohio State, Oklahoma, USC, Texas, and Florida State. These programs either have a win at all cost mentality (FSU, Bama, Auburn), or massive resources (Ohio State, Texas, Florida, USC). Virginia Tech is not and will never be a football factory. Hopefully, we will continue to do things the right way. I want no part of the win-at-all cost FSU’s or the institutional cheating by the UNC’s, even if it meant a title or two.
I look forward to the future of Hokie football. I hope to once again attend the ACC Championship Game. I hope to take a trip to New Orleans or Miami to watch the Hokies play. I would be thrilled if we played in three or four major bowls during the next 10-15 years. However, to think that the next 20 years will be anything like the past 20 years is totally irrational. Those in my generation have been fortunate enough to live through this golden era, one that would not have been possible without Coach Beamer. We can disagree on the timing of Coach Beamer’s departure, but we should all agree that he deserves our humanity, our kindness, and our gratitude!