In December, 1986, Frank Beamer was introduced as head football coach at his alma mater Virginia Tech. A reporter asked Beamer if he believed the Hokies could win a national championship. “If I didn’t think we could reach that level, I wouldn’t be here,” Beamer said.
It seemed like a far-fetched notion at the time, but not anymore. This season, the 53-year-old Beamer led Virginia Tech to an 11-0 regular season record and a Sugar Bowl date with Florida State for the national championship.
“It’s just fantastic, for everyone that’s been a Hokie, thought about being a Hokie or wants to be a Hokie,” said Beamer, who grew up in nearby Fancy Gap, Va., and played defensive back for the Hokies from 1966 through 1968. “We answered every challenge that was thrown our way.”
Beamer was the overwhelming choice for the Maxwell Football Club’s Collegiate Coach of the Year honors. He becomes the 11th recipient of the George Munger Award, named in honor of the former University of Pennsylvania coach.
It was a long climb from where Beamer started as head coach at Virginia Tech to this season’s run at the national championship. His first five teams were a combined 22-32-1. In his sixth year, the Hokies joined the Big East Conference, but won only two games. Yet Beamer never gave up hope.
In 1993, the Hokies had their breakthrough year. They won nine games, including a 45-20 rout of Indiana in the Independence Bowl. Virginia Tech went 44-16 in the next five seasons and went to a bowl game each year. Still, it took most people by surprise this season when the Hokies went undefeated and surged to No. 3 in the national polls.
“People are used to seeing Nebraska here and Florida here and Tennessee here and so forth,” Beamer said. “I’d like to think Virginia Tech is here for now and that we can stay in this position and challenge them for a few years to come.
“College football doesn’t have to be the same teams and the same people doing the same things every year. The system props up the traditional powers enough as it is. I think I’m just going to say, ‘Leave some room for the programs on the rise like ours. Don’t kill our dream.'”
The Hokies led the nation in both scoring offense (41.4 points per game) and defense (10.5) during the regular season. They also won their third consecutive Big East Conference title as Beamer became the winningest coach in school history. His record is 88-59-2 in 13 seasons.
“To see all the excitement on the faces of our fans was special,” said Beamer, who coached six seasons at Murray State before taking over the program at Virginia Tech. “I grew up attending games here, so to see where the program is now is really special. A lot of the letters coming in say how nice it is to have one our own in charge. I’m just thankful I’ve been able to be a part of it.
“I credit a lot of our success to the leadership of seniors like Corey Moore and John Engleberger. They go after it so hard, day in and day out, that sometimes it is impossible to tell whether it’s a practice or a game. When your best players bring an attitude like that to the team, everyone else is going to fall into line.”