October 26, 2005
BLACKSBURG - Virginia Tech football fans are breathing easy again.
It's not because the Hokies survived four turnovers to beat Maryland 28-9 in their most recent game. It's because Tech coach Frank Beamer's deal is finally done.
Beamer, who has been the head coach at his alma mater since 1987, won't be going anywhere else to coach any time soon - or, in all likelihood, ever. The deal is for seven years (at $2,008,000 a year and all of it is guaranteed), with an option for three more. Beamer, who turned 59 in October, will be able to retire at Tech.
So, now that it's done, let's take a closer look at some of the details of the negotiations.
Who won? Beamer, on all counts.
He got everything he wanted - more than $2 million a year, a good bit of money for his assistants and seven years guaranteed. The guarantee became a sticking point after Virginia coach Al Groh signed a new contract in August that reportedly guaranteed all of his money instead of just the base salary, as is common in coaches' contracts.
Beamer's nine full-time assistants will make about $1.5 million a year (combined) next season, an increase of about $300,000 over what they're making this year. Beamer's staff hasn't changed in four years, and a big reason for that is the way he looks out for his guys. His deal could have been done in August, but he refused to sign anything until his assistants were upgraded, too.
Is assuring Beamer of $14 million-plus for seven years a smart thing?
That's a lot of money to guarantee anyone, and fortunes can change quickly in football. But Tech is going to a bowl for the 13th straight season and has recruited well. If the program slips, it won't be far and won't be for long. A seven-year guarantee is always a risk, but with Tech and Beamer it is about as safe a risk as you can have.
Kentucky? That never would have happened. Beamer would have left Tech if need be, if the negotiations got too bogged down or broke apart altogether. He was ready to go to North Carolina in 2000, before the school came up with more cash.
But the Kentucky rumor that was floated on internet message boards was nothing more than a plant. (Imagine that!) It created a short-term buzz that The Big Guy would walk. He would have if things had not worked out. He just would not have walked there.
Just for yuks, who would be the next coach?
In-house, defensive coordinator Bud Foster. Outside the program, the buzz is that South Florida's Jim Leavitt would have received a strong look. Back in 2000, Beamer's job likely would have been filled by Western Michigan's Gary Darnell (since fired). In fact, there was a rumor back then that Darnell was in Blacksburg ready to be introduced, had Beamer followed through on his verbal agreement to take over at North Carolina.
But Beamer didn't leave then, and he isn't leaving now. He just went from the fifth-highest-paid to the second-highest-paid coach in the ACC. He now trails only Florida State legend Bobby Bowden, who has the all-time NCAA Division I-A record for victories and two national championships to his credit. That's pretty good company.
Yes, Beamer got a great deal. Assuming he continues to produce as he has in Blacksburg, so did Virginia Tech.
DEFENSIVE FRONT DESERVES CREDIT
On the field, a strong defensive effort against Maryland was overlooked by those four turnovers the Hokies committed. Maryland had gained 570 yards in a victory over Virginia. It had just 254 against Tech, only 96 of them in the second half.
Overlooked somewhat as a reason for Tech's defensive success this season is the play of the front four. Foster's best defenses always have been ones where he could get good pressure without having to blitz, and he has that this year in a big way.
As statistics go, the quarterback hurry is about as dubious as they come. When is it officially a hurry? But it still is worth noting that Tech has 74 hurries this season, which is 66 more than its opponents have collected. Anyone who watches the Hokies play will attest to the fact that, regardless of the numbers, the team protects Marcus Vick very well and usually makes life miserable for opposing quarterbacks.
Defensive line coach Charley Wiles has the depth he needs this season to rotate his top performers regularly. The full-time starters, both salty seniors, are Darryl Tapp at end and Jonathan Lewis at tackle. Sophomore Chris Ellis and junior Noland Burchette both have started at the other end. Senior Tim Sandidge and sophomore Carlton Powell both have started at the other tackle. But it doesn't really matter who starts. All play a good bit, and all are doing a good job of putting on the pressure.
"Numbers-wise, it may not look like much, because we don't have a lot of tackles," Lewis said. "But I think we're doing a good job, doing what we're supposed to be doing."
And then some.
Sandidge has been the most pleasant surprise. He admitted he was "pretty much a bystander" last season, not playing much at all as the Hokies won the ACC championship. He lost a preseason competition with Powell to be the starter.
When the season started, an ankle injury to Powell opened up another opportunity for Sandidge. He made the most of it this time, making several big plays in the opener at N.C. State. He's been a solid contributor ever since, while dealing with a banged-up ankle.
If there was such a thing as a midseason unsung hero award, Sandidge likely would be Tech's first nominee.
GREENBERGS OFFER HEALTHY BALANCE
With Seth Greenberg preparing for his third season as Tech's basketball coach, a couple of South Florida graduates recently were heard expressing some surprise at the results he's achieved thus far in Blacksburg.
Greenberg came to Tech from South Florida, his welcome pretty much worn out there. Late-season fades and a poor record against ranked teams were severe problems for the Bulls. It's been quite the opposite at Tech. The Hokies have won big games in February during his two seasons, and they already can count Duke among the ranked teams beaten.
A major difference between the Greenberg at South Florida and the Greenberg at Tech? An increased role by brother Brad Greenberg, the man Seth Greenberg admits "balances me out."
Brad Greenberg is Tech's associate head coach, a former NBA general manager and the polar opposite of his brother in many ways. They share an extreme passion for basketball, but Brad is much more low-key than the pedal-to-the-metal Seth.
Having Brad's input in recruiting decisions has helped with judgment of talent. Having Brad's personality has helped with keeping the team from getting too wound up. A team that's on edge is going to have a problem maintaining that edge all season. Those are the kind of teams that fade late.
In short, the Hokies have shown all of the strengths of both Greenbergs, and that's a pretty good combination.
This year's test will be whether Tech can win when it is expected to win. It was picked last in the Big East and next-to-last in the ACC in each of Greenberg's first two seasons. That Tech became a postseason contender a year ago was a surprise. It will be a disappointment if the Hokies aren't one this year.