Go Tech Go, Part 29: The First Turnaround

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Frank and Shane Beamer, photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics photography.
Frank and Shane Beamer, photo courtesy of Virginia Tech athletics photography.

Click here for all previous parts of the series

After two seasons at his alma mater, Frank Beamer was 5-17 and still struggling with Burruss Hall’s backlash against the perceived “athletics-first” culture Bill Dooley created. Over the summer Beamer lost arguably his top recruit, Virginia Class AAA Defensive Player of the Year James Wilson out of Hampton High School, because of an academic snag. Wilson had met the NCAA’s Proposition 48 eligibility requirements, but he failed an algebra class Virginia Tech required for admission. Instead, Wilson enrolled at the University of Tennessee, because Hampton High had certified a ninth-grade math class as a college-preparatory course. Wilson played 39 games at defensive end for the Volunteers and was elected team captain as a senior in 1993. (Editor’s note: his son, Tyrel Wilson, went on to play defensive end for he Hokies.)

On top of that, 1988 starters Horacio Moronta (defensive tackle and leading tackler), Scott Rice (defensive back), and Ralph Brown (running back) failed to meet academic requirements and were ruled ineligible for the 1989 season.

“A lot has happened at Tech since (Beamer) took the job,” wrote Roanoke Times & World-News columnist Bill Brill. “None of it has made his job any easier. It is tough to get athletes into school here and tougher yet to keep them eligible. The schedule is tortuous and getting stronger.”

Beamer put all that aside and led the Hokies to their first season-opening