There are those outside the Virginia Tech program who have started to wonder whether coach Frank Beamer has lost his touch, whether he will be able to go out on his own terms when he believes the time is right.
Two straight subpar seasons in Blacksburg have raised eyebrows and concerns. That is why the news that Beamer received a two-year contract extension came as a shock Wednesday. Athletic director Whit Babcock said in a phone interview that he gave Beamer the extension as a show of support, to quell distractions and to help out recruiting, too.
The extension does show support, yes, and Beamer does deserve a heaping amount of slack for a few subpar seasons mixed in with many, many more stellar ones. So the extension makes sense, in theory. Perhaps it puts an end to immediate speculation about Beamer’s future. Certainly, it helps the selling points on the recruiting trail.
But in reality, there are questions about where this program is headed, enough to make you scratch your head at tacking two more years onto a deal that would have expired in January 2017.
What if Virginia Tech just threw its support behind a coach who never wins 10 games again? What if the Hokies continue on this downward trend, scraping together seven- and eight-win seasons the way they have the past two years?
Is that the type of support Virginia Tech is talking about?
“I don't want to get boxed in on a number of wins,” Babcock said. “You evaluate the program in total at the end of every season. There’s enough pressure on coaches already. Some years there’s great years with nine wins, and maybe there's others at some places where you lose to your rival and win 10 games and people don’t like that. That number of 10 is brought up a lot here, but we won't use a certain number as a barometer. Even Coach has said we expect more than we’ve done the last couple of years, and hopefully we’re moving in the right direction.”
There is no manual for how to replace a coaching legend. Sometimes, the process gets nasty. Recently, we have seen circuses envelope Bobby Bowden at Florida State, Joe Paterno at Penn State and even Mack Brown at Texas.
While it is true the extension does not guarantee Beamer will be around for five more seasons, it does signal that Babcock believes Beamer has earned the benefit of the doubt, at the very least, and a few more years to get Virginia Tech back among the elite. Plus, Babcock wanted to get a few more years added on because only two years and four months remained on the contract.
"Either they’re good enough to get four or five, or they’re not good enough to be your coach," Babcock said. "It was getting down to a level I thought distracted from recruiting."
Patience has gone the way of the Model T, so we will see just how much of it Babcock ends up having if the Hokies keep struggling. There is always a downside when coaches start raising the bar to unprecedented heights. When they start to miss the bar, exasperation grows much quicker with each passing season.
Beamer has spoken positively about the group he has heading into the season, one that is capable of winning 10 games, at least on paper. He has said he is energized and happy, and is excited about where the future is headed. Babcock must believe the same, or this extension will end up being worthless.
“Some people will think it’s good, some won’t, but we feel like it’s the right thing for Virginia Tech, so we did it,” Babcock said.
Only time will tell.