Tech's athletic department announced Sunday that Beamer will retire at the end of this season, which is his 29th as the Hokies’ coach. A news conference is scheduled for Monday afternoon in Blacksburg.
"I have always said that 'I want what is best for Virginia Tech,'" Beamer said in a statement released by the athletic department. "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. (Sunday), I informed (Tech president) Dr. Timothy Sands and (Tech athletic director) Whit Babcock of my decision to retire at the conclusion of the 2015 season.
"I will speak about my retirement at my regular press conference (Monday), and after that, my sole and absolute focus will return to coaching these players as best as I can and encouraging our coaches and staff who I care for so deeply."
The impact of the 69-year-old Beamer on Tech is immeasurable.
Beamer, a native of Mt. Airy, N.C., who grew up in Hillsville and played defensive back at Tech from 1966-68, is the architect of a program that rose from pitiful roots in the first six seasons of his tenure to unprecedented heights, highlighted by 22 straight bowl appearances.
No active Football Bowl Subdivision coach has more wins than Beamer, who has compiled a career record of 277-143-4, including his first six seasons as a head coach at Murray State from 1981-86.
“Coach Beamer contacted me earlier (Sunday) with his decision to retire following this season,” Babcock said in the statement. “Coach will always remain one of the most beloved figures in college football history. He’s a future Hall-of-Famer, an educator and a role model. His contributions to Virginia Tech and the game of football - both on and off of the field – are unquestionable and beyond measure.
“It’s been an unbelievable honor and privilege for me to work with the winningest active coach in college football for the past two years. Like the hundreds of players and the thousands of lives he has touched and impacted in such a positive and profound manner over his life and career, he has positively impacted mine as well and I am a better athletic director for it.
“He coached the game the right way and no one coached it better, no one. You cannot ‘replace’ Coach Beamer. What an amazing run it was over the past 29 years. He will be missed on the sideline, but he and Cheryl will always be part of the Virginia Tech family.
“Moving forward, first and foremost, we will focus our efforts on supporting Coach, his staff, and most importantly our students who play football, in order to finish this season on a high note. I’m confident the Hokie Nation will rally around them and do the same. Coach will lead our program through the remainder of the season and hopefully in a bowl game for the 23rd consecutive year.
“(Sunday) is about Coach Beamer and celebrating all that he and his staff have meant to Virginia Tech. Once the regular season is completed, I will speak about our search and finding the next great leader for our program. That is for another time. (Sunday) is both a sad and proud day for the Hokie family. We will stay strong, together.”
In the '99 season, Beamer achieved the pinnacle of his career. Led by quarterback Michael Vick, a Warwick High graduate and 2001 top overall NFL draft pick of the Atlanta Falcons, Tech finished the regular season 11-0 and played in the Bowl Championship Series national title game, losing 46-29 to Florida State in the Sugar Bowl.
“Frank Beamer is one of the most respected coaches in college athletics, and for good reason," ACC commissioner John Swofford said in a statement released by the conference office. "What he has meant to college football, his players, staff and fans is immeasurable. He is a man of integrity, class and humility, and I’m tremendously pleased that part of his career has been spent in the Atlantic Coast Conference. I wish Frank, (Frank's wife) Cheryl and his entire family nothing but the best.”
Late in his career, Beamer, who is under contract through the 2018 season and is earning $2,775,925 in total compensation this year, has had trouble sustaining the level of success that saw Tech reel off eight consecutive seasons of 10-plus wins from '04-11.
Virginia Tech, which has an open week on its schedule this week, enters its Nov. 12 game at Georgia Tech with a 4-5 overall record, including 2-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Virginia Tech, which likely will go through the entire season unranked by the Associated Press for the first time since '92, needs two wins in its last three games to get the minimum six regular-season wins required for bowl eligibility for a 23rd straight season.
In the last four seasons, Tech has gone 26-22, including just 3-9 in its last 12 home games immediately after a stretch in which the Hokies won 61 of 70 home games from the start of the 2003 season through the middle of the '13 season.
Tech has an 11-game winning streak against the University of Virginia, but the Hokies have had to defeat U.Va. in the regular-season conclusion in two of the last three seasons just to get bowl eligible. Tech’s bowl wins last season and in '13 helped it achieve a winning record at 7-6.
"I have nothing but respect for Coach Beamer and his accomplishments," U.Va. coach Mike London said Sunday in a statement released by the school's athletic department. "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. I wish Coach Beamer and his family well."
After Tech’s 24-20 win last season against U.Va., Beamer had throat surgery Dec. 1. Though reasons for the surgery have never been publicly revealed, he lost 30 pounds and had to sit in the coaches’ box during Tech’s win last December against Cincinnati in the Military Bowl. His son, Shane, who is Tech’s associate head coach and running backs coach, served as the Hokies’ coach on the sideline in the bowl.
A month after the surgery, Babcock met with reporters and issued a statement titled “Babcock And Beamer Have Higher Expectations, Anticipate Improvement Next Season.”
“We have high expectations here, and the guy who’s our coach created them,” said Babcock last January, as reported by the Daily Press’ David Teel. “There were no ultimatums issued, no magic numbers issued. I support Coach and I think we’re going to be a lot better next year.”
Prior to the last four seasons, in which Tech has been ranked in the AP top 25 just six weeks, Beamer’s program was a perennial top-15 finisher.
“Over the past three decades, Virginia Tech and Coach Beamer have transformed the university and the football program together and have created a legacy on which we will continue to grow,” Sands said in the statement. “Coach Beamer built our football program into a consistent winner through continuous innovation, a relentless work ethic and a commitment to integrity, while Virginia Tech was becoming a major research university with global reach."
As part of a contract extension he agreed to in Sept. '11, the job title of "special assistant to the athletic director" - a role that will entail funding and public appearances - is to be created for him upon his retirement. He'll serve in that capacity for eight years, and will be paid $250,000 per year.
Among Beamer's assistant coaches, three of them - defensive coordinator Bud Foster, recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach Bryan Stinespring and defensive line coach and running game coordinator Charley Wiles - have a combined 75 years of experience on Beamer's staff in Blacksburg.
Foster, who has earned a reputation as one of the nation's most skilled coordinators since being promoted to the role in '95, won the '06 Broyles Award, which is given annually to the country's best assistant coach. He was also a finalist for the award in the '99, '01 and '05.
Last season, he was the nation's highest-paid assistant coach, earning $1,369,500, including a one-time $800,000 retention annuity he was paid at the end of the year. In seven of the last 11 seasons, his unit has finished top 10 in the nation in total defense. Foster also coached with Beamer and played for him at Murray State.
Stinespring started as a graduate assistant on Beamer's staff in '90 and worked his way up to offensive coordinator, which was a role he had from '02-12.
Foster is one of four former players for Beamer, including Shane, defensive backs coach Torrian Gray and outside linebackers and defensive line coach Cornell Brown, who is now on Beamer's coaching staff.
After being plucked from Murray State in ’87 by then-Tech athletics director Dale Baughman to take over a Hokies' football program saddled with NCAA sanctions incurred under previous coach Bill Dooley, Beamer orchestrated a monumental turnaround. He went just 24-40-2 in his first six seasons and was at risk of losing his job before making staff changes before the ’93 season that helped get the program off the ground.
Tech went 9-3 in ’93, finishing the season with a win against Indiana in the Independence Bowl, which was the Hokies’ first bowl appearance since ’86. It started the streak of consecutive bowls – 17 of which came while late AD Jim Weaver was at the helm of Tech’s athletic department.
Beamer, who led Tech to four ACC championships, two outright Big East titles and a share of another Big East crown, was a central figure in the healing process Tech endured after the campus shootings on April 16, 2007, that took the lives of 32 people.
In the days immediately following the shootings, he visited with and spoke to individuals who were wounded in the shootings and the families of victims, serving as a point man in Tech’s efforts to move forward from the tragedy.
"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," said Beamer, whose last game at Lane Stadium will be Nov. 21 against North Carolina - a school that came close to hiring him away from Tech in 2000.
"I know 'Hokie Nation' will continue to give our players and our coaches their full support in these last three games, and hopefully through a bowl game. I will be forever grateful to everyone who made these past three decades the best years of my life. It's an emotional day for me and my family. I am so honored and humbled to have served as your head coach."
Few guys in the coaching business are closer to Beamer than William and Mary's Jimmye Laycock, who often refers to him as "Frankie." They were assistant coaches in 1973 and '74 at The Citadel under former coach Bobby Ross.
"(Beamer has) had a tremendous career," said Laycock, who is in his 36th season as W&M's coach. "He's such a good guy, and he's been so consistent with the way he's run the program.
"I've always said it's a lot harder to stay at a place than to get to a place."
Like Beamer, Laycock has a good handle on what it takes to stick around as a coach at his alma mater. He played quarterback at W&M from '66 through '69. What's the secret?
"Advil and Coors Light," Laycock said with a chuckle. "It's like any kind of job you keep for a long time. You have to keep things in perspective and don't get too high or too low, and I think that's what Frankie's done, and he's done it the right way."
Wood can be reached by phone at 757-247-4642. David Teel contributed to this story.