RICHMOND, Va. (AP) Frank Beamer has decided this will be his last season as Virginia Tech’s coach, ending a 29-year run in Blacksburg, Virginia, that made Beamer Ball synonymous with winning.
Beamer announced Sunday he would retire after this season.
”I have always said that I want what is best for Virginia Tech,” Beamer said in a statement. ”Because of my love and passion for this great university, this program and our tremendous fans, I have decided after 29 years that it’s time.”
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The 69-year-old is the winningest active major college football coach with 277 victories. He is 235-120-2 since taking over at Virginia Tech in 1987, when he drew laughter by saying the Hokies could win a national championship by focusing on recruiting in Virginia.
They came close when quarterback Michael Vick, from Newport News, led the Hokies to the 1999 national championship game.
Beamer led the Hokies to seven conference titles, four in the Atlantic Coast Conference and three in the Big East, plus eight BCS bowl games. During his tenure, the program has also vastly expanded Lane Stadium to its current capacity of 65,632, built a new locker room, weight room and lounge area for the football team and, this year, opened an indoor practice facility.
”I will be forever grateful to everyone who made these past three decades the best years of my life,” Beamer said, adding that he will discuss his decision at his regularly scheduled press conference on Monday, then go back to focusing on winning.
While Beamer gave no prior public indication he was planning to step down, the announcement is not surprising. The Hokies have slipped in recent seasons and are 4-5 this year after beating Boston College on Saturday. Beamer also had throat surgery after the regular season last year, missing most of the Hokies’ bowl preparations until joining them at the Military Bowl the day before the game.
Beamer said he informed athletic director Whit Babcock and university president Timothy Sands on Sunday that he was stepping down.
”I was going to wait until the end of the season to make this announcement, but I’ve always believed in being open and honest with my players and coaches,” Beamer said.
The Hokies won at least 10 games each season from 2004-11, but have lost at least five games each year since and twice had to win their regular season finale against Virginia to qualify for a bowl game. Virginia Tech needs to win two of its last three regular season games to extend its NCAA-best string of seasons ending in a bowl game to 23.
Beamer spent his first six seasons as a head coach at Murray State. When he returned to coach at the school where he was a three-year starter as a defensive back, Virginia Tech football was an afterthought nationally. Some fans called for Beamer’s dismissal when Virginia Tech finished 2-8-1 in his sixth season. But athletic director Dave Braine refused to make a change and the Hokies won the Independence Bowl the following season. By the mid-1990s, they were contending for Big East titles with Miami.
The Hokies moved to the ACC in 2004 with Miami and surpassed the Hurricanes as the top program in the conference. Virginia Tech played in six of the first eight ACC title games and stated its arrival on the national stage by beating Texas 28-10 in the 1995 Sugar Bowl.
The Hokies have also dominated their in-state rivalry with Virginia, winning the last 11 meetings.
”I have nothing but respect for coach Beamer and his accomplishments,” Cavaliers coach Mike London said in a statement. ”His longevity and influences in the game of football are outstanding. I have gotten to know him personally and know him to be a good man.”
Beamer’s best teams excelled on special teams and defense. Blocked kicks and return touchdowns were the specialty and were the calling cards of Beamer Ball. Under Beamer, Lane Stadium in Blacksburg became one of the toughest venues in college football for visiting teams.
Despite recent struggles, the Hokies have not had a losing season since 1992. A string of 93 consecutive sellouts ended when Virginia Tech opened the 2013 season against Western Carolina, and their only sellout this season came when they opened the season with a loss to top-ranked Ohio State.
Beamer has said he would like his replacement to come from within his staff, but before this season indicated he planned to have no involvement in the process. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster has been with him since he was the head coach at Murray State. Beamer’s son, Shane, is also on the staff and stepped in as acting coach while his father was recuperating from the throat surgery.
”Today is about Coach Beamer and celebrating all that he and his staff have meant to Virginia Tech,” Babcock said. ”Once the regular season is completed, I will speak about our search and finding the next great leader for our program.”
AP college football writer Ralph D. Russo contributed from New York.