“Cheryl and I know how fortunate we have been to spend our last 29 years here. Our son (Shane) graduated from here. Our daughter (Casey) graduated from here and our daughter’s husband (Caanan) graduated from here, and we picked up a Mississippi State Bulldog (Shane’s wife, Emily), which I am extremely proud of her.
“I talk about it all the time, how I have been a fortunate guy. (Former Tech AD Dale) “Dutch” Baughman and I talked this morning. I didn’t know him, but we met in a hotel room in Nashville and we hit it off. I am thankful for him hiring me here at Virginia Tech and being able to work for Athletic Directors like Dave Braine, Jim Weaver and Whit Babcock, who I want to say ‘thank you’ to because he’s treated me great, and I really appreciate how you do business.
“I look forward to getting back out there. I love this football team. It is the best group of players I think we have ever had as a group. We have great leadership. I have been blessed to have some great coaches come through here, but as a group, taking everything into consideration this is the best coaching staff I’ve ever had. Bud Foster is the best defensive coordinator in the country. (Offensive coordinator) Scot Loeffler, who I think is in the same category. I have been fortunate to have coached my son here and have him come coach for me. Thank goodness he took after his mom with detail. He’s good at what he does, as a coach’s son if he isn’t good at what he does that just doesn’t work, but he does a great job and I am proud of him. I really thank everyone for being here. I love my players. I love my coaches, and I am the most fortunate guy in the world. We have been blessed.
“I want to say thanks to the media. There is usually one gotcha guy in the media, but I’ve always respected what you do and I hope that has come across to them. I have tried to work with them the best I could and I appreciate them.”
When did you decide this was the time?
“I have always said I think I will know when it’s time and I think it’s time. There have been some difference of opinions out there, and any time you have a public life, there will be that. The last thing I want is for Hokies to be divided, I want everyone to be in the same direction and I think it’s right in that regard, and so I think this is the right time.”
Take us through yesterday and the reaction from players and coaches. What was that like?
“The tough part about retiring is that you are leaving the people you love the most. That wasn’t an easy time, but I appreciate them. Several of the players came down to my office afterwards (voice breaks), and this is a good group of guys.”
What’s changed about coaching for you in 29 years?
“Besides my hair (laughs)? I don’t think the players have changed. I have been fortunate to have a lot of good players through the years. I have had good-hearted people who try to be successful and who want to be successful. Our record right now is not exactly where we want it, but it is not for lack of effort. Some injuries came around and different things. I don’t think players have changed, but I think situations around the media have changed and how quick news passes. As far as coaching players and the relationships, I don’t think that has changed at all.”
Have you sensed the amount of appreciation in the last 24 hours that have been flowing from the fan base?
“You know I don’t tune into the media and read newspapers. I have heard some fantastic things and Hokie fans are the best. They are loyal and they care and they respect other people and I appreciate them a lot.”
Was it difficult to make this decision now?
“I have always wanted to be honest with people. If I know something I can’t keep it a secret, and I don’t want to. My players and coaches deserve to know what’s going on. For me it was the right thing to do.”
Was there anyone else besides your family you sought counsel from?
“The guy that I think the best in the country in what he does is John Ballein (Associate AD for Football Operations). He gives me advice whether I want it or not. I talked with him and I think he is sensible about things, but other than that just my family.”
How do you want to be remembered?
“He is who he is. Honest, caring and respectful.”
How often do you think about how you have affected university wide and the surrounding area?
“You don’t do that unless you have people around you, the presidents of the university and the athletic directors, the coaches, everybody has been a part of that. I feel fortunate I’ve been allowed to lead this program, but there are a lot of people involved, and you don’t do it by yourself, I learned that a long time ago. I am glad I had all those people with me and to be able to work for those guys. There has not ever been a guy who goes through with the right presidents and athletic directors, and again I know how fortunate I have been in that regard.”
Are there a handful of games that really stand out to you?
“A game that was really important had to be the Texas game (28-10 win in 1995 Sugar Bowl) because that’s the day people saw us differently, after that game, playing in the Sugar Bowl and beating a major opponent. I think that was a game changer. The national championship game was a tough one. I know there has been a lot more good than bad in my life, so I will leave it like that.”
What do you think about the struggles of those early years and getting to come back for 1992-93, and as you leave here how much pride do you walk away with?
“Number one I am glad I didn’t upset many people when I first got here. A lot of people come in and think they know what needs to be done, and I don’t think I was ever that way. I followed a guy who did great here in Coach (Bill) Dooley. I am thankful that the administration here at the time thought I was the right guy and that I just needed enough time to get it done the right way and I had what it takes to get it done. I doubt if anyone could come through a time like that again. At this time when people want results, I don’t know if I could’ve made it again like that.
“One thing I take great pride in is that it this is a very attractive job, the facilities and ability to compete we leave it in good shape. We leave some fantastic players, some really good young players who have developed and the future is bright, and I take pride in that we aren’t leaving it in a bad way. I wish we had a few less injuries and we had a few different things and we could go out on a higher note. But if we can win these last three and I am going to work like heck, and I know our team will and our coaches will to go to a bowl and do some dancing.”
What’re you going to miss the most in the day-to-day stuff?
“I know the biggest part of this business and the way you get results is relationships and caring about people genuinely. This group of players and coaches made it easy but caring and relationships is what I will miss the most.”
What will the response be from the team be on the field from this decision?
“Not every day in life will be great, but some of the greatest people are the ones who respond to adversity, and when things are not right and people aren’t saying the best things about you, how do you respond to that? I tell you what, the last one at Boston College made a great statement of our coaches and our players. There isn’t a group I’d rather be with to go down the stretch trying to win three games.”
All photos by TechSideline.com photographer Ivan Morozov.