Most Virginia Tech fans have taken in a game at Lane Stadium, can tell you all about the 2000 BCS title game, and remember all their favorite wins over the Wahoos. But only real fans know how the "Enter Sandman" tradition started, know what Bill Dooley said to Bruce Smith to make him a Hokie, or can break down what "Beamerball" means. Featuring traditions, records, and lore, this lively, detailed book explores the personalities, events, and facts every Virginia Tech fan should know. Whether you're a fan from the early days of Frank Beamer or a more recent supporter, these are the 100 things all fans need to know and do in their lifetime. Beat reporter Andy Bitter has collected every essential piece of Hokies knowledge and trivia, as well as must-do activities, and ranks them all from 1 to 100, providing an entertaining and easy-to-follow checklist as you progress on your way to fan superstardom.
About the Author
Andy Bitter is a staff writer for The Athletic covering Virginia Tech. He’s covered the Hokies since 2011, previously for the Virginian-Pilot and Roanoke Times, and has written about college football for twenty years.
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After 29 years as Virginia Tech's head coach, Frank Beamer begrudgingly said goodbye, announcing in November 2015 that he'd retire at the end of the season. It was a tough decision, an emotional one, and tears welled in his eyes as his wife, Cheryl, stood by his side at the podium in front of a room full of family members, coaches, and players, when he called himself the most fortunate guy in the world.
As the Q&A session with the media began, Beamer was asked how he'd like to be remembered at Virginia Tech. He didn't mention his 238 victories, seven conference titles, national championship game appearance, or national Coach of the Year award, any of which would have been a worthy answer.
Instead, he hoped people would remember him as a person.
"He is who he is," Beamer said. "Honest, caring and respectful."
It's not just that Beamer helped Virginia Tech's football program reach new heights and established a consistent national presence in his nearly three decades as the team's head coach, guiding the Hokies from a football independent that was on NCAA probation to one attractive enough to be pursued by two conferences, win numerous league titles, and play in several major bowl games.
It's how he did it that puts him No. 1 in Hokies fans' hearts and minds; a caring and loyal mentor in a profession littered with coaches who aren't and an avuncular ambassador for Virginia Tech who's as recognizable as anyone in the university's history.
"I know he wanted to win a national championship," Cheryl said, mentioning the one missing piece in his impressive résumé. "I've told him, 'You've already won one.' I said, 'Your national championship is the type of man you were and that legacy of how you treated people and the way these kids loved you.' I said, 'That's your national championship.' And those kids won't forget him."
To even get to coach at Virginia Tech was a storybook tale in itself. Beamer was born in Mount Airy, North Carolina, in 1946 and grew up in Fancy Gap, Virginia, in the southwest corner of the state, not far from Blacksburg.
He had a humble upbringing that gave him plenty of perspective in life. At age seven, he'd used a push broom to keep a pile of burning trash in place. A spark ignited a nearby can of gasoline, exploding in front of him and leaving him with burns on his shoulders, chest, and the right side of his neck. His brother, Barnett, saved his life by rolling him on the ground. After Beamer's hospital stay, his mother, Herma, wouldn't let him allow the scarring to hold him back in life.
"Mom would always tell me, 'Concentrate on what you have and be thankful for it. Don't waste any time feeling sorry for what you don't have or for what happened to you in the past,'" Beamer wrote in his autobiography Let Me Be Frank in 2013. "It taught me a lesson; something like, hey, take what you have, build on it, but it is what it is. Take the situation and ask, 'What can I do to make it better?'"
It became a guiding principle in his life and coaching career. Beamer played three sports at Hillsville High before coming to Virginia Tech, where he played defensive back. Wearing No. 25, he was a starting cornerback for three years under Jerry Claiborne, playing on teams that went to the Liberty Bowl in 1966 and '68.
He eventually got his college coaching start as a graduate assistant at age 25 for Claiborne at the University of Maryland in 1972, though it was a humble beginning. His first task was sitting on top of the visitors' locker room behind the end zone with a pair of binoculars, relaying through a headset to the Terps coaches what technique North Carolina's defensive tackle was playing. He did it dutifully for about 10 plays, getting no response. He soon figured out that nobody could hear him on the other end.
"I told Cheryl after we went back home, I said, 'Cheryl, I don't think I'm going to do this very long,'" Beamer said with a laugh.
Needless to say, it got better. He got a job as the defensive line coach on Bobby Ross' staff at The Citadel in 1973 and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 1977. He got the Murray State defensive coordinator job in 1979, first pairing up with a hard-hitting safety and outside linebacker named Bud Foster, and later got his first head coaching job there in 1981. After going 42–23–2 in six seasons, winning the Ohio Valley Conference in 1986 and making the I-AA playoffs, he was hired as the Hokies' head coach late in 1986.
He wasn't a sexy hire. Ross' name had been briefly mentioned as a possibility to replace the outgoing Bill Dooley, though he ended up going to Georgia Tech instead. When Beamer was hired, famously prickly Roanoke Times columnist Bill Brill wrote that Beamer's hire was like a kid on Christmas morning expecting to get a toy, only to open the box and see a sweater. Beamer's response? "Maybe Virginia Tech needed a sweater?"
The lack of enthusiasm from some didn't stop Beamer from dreaming big.
"I really think that someday we can play for national championships here," he declared in his introductory press conference, a statement as audacious as it was ambitious, given Tech's football history.
Had he known what he was getting into, he might not have been so bold. Unbeknownst to Beamer when athletic director Dutch Baughman hired him, the NCAA was about to hit Virginia Tech for violations committed by Dooley. When the hammer came down in 1987, with the football team losing 20 scholarships and placed on a two-year probation, it was yet another hurdle for a school that was a football nomad at the time, not tied to any conference.
Beamer's early teams struggled against a tough schedule. Though he came close to getting over the hump a couple times, a 2–8–1 season in 1992 seemed like it might be the end. He was 24–40–2 in six seasons with the Hokies at that point, a record that would get you fired at any school today.
When Virginia Tech lost a heartbreaker at Louisville early that year, a disgruntled fan called the Beamers' listed phone number and, when the coach's then 11-year-old daughter, Casey, picked up the phone, let loose with a string of insults about her dad, leaving her in tears. Beamer didn't let it get him or his family down.
"Part of that is he did such a good job of not bringing it home and not letting it affect my sister and me when I was at home," said his son, Shane, who'd later play as a long snapper at Tech and get into the coaching business himself, including with the Hokies from 2011 to '15. "He was Dad."
Fortunately, Beamer had athletic director Dave Braine on his side. Braine, who took over after Baughman resigned in anger six months into the job for not being told about the NCAA investigation into the basketball program, did his homework to make sure Beamer was the right coach for the job. He sat in on coaches meetings, famously bringing Carol Lee Donuts to Sunday film sessions and asking questions about why Beamer made decisions that he did in that woeful '92 campaign.
"And he never lost his patience," Braine said. "Answered the questions well. And I had a great deal of respect for him. He was a great coach."
Beamer made some staffing changes before the '93 season, most importantly bringing on combative defensive coordinator Phil Elmassian to shake things up, and things finally turned around.
With a run-based offense that had some added firepower from quarterback Maurice DeShazo and receiver Antonio Freeman, a defense that welcomed star recruit and fearsome pass-rusher Cornell Brown, and strong special teams that would be foundation of "Beamer Ball," the Hokies went 9–3, capping the season with their first bowl appearance under Beamer, a 45–20 win against Indiana in the Independence Bowl.
Through it all, Beamer was a steadying presence in the locker room, one of his best traits as a coach.
"I pride myself on it today," said John Ballein, his longtime right-hand man as director of operations. "When there's turmoil, I want to be at my very best. I take pride in that, me professionally. And I think I learned that ... I don't think – I know I learned that from him. When things are at their very worst, then you need to be in control of the situation."
Virginia Tech had an upward trajectory after that initial bowl breakthrough. The Hokies were in the Big East at that point and won back-to-back league titles in '95 and '96, the former season punctuated by a 28–10 Sugar Bowl victory against Texas that put the program on the map and gave Tech its first Top 10 finish at No. 10.
The program reached new heights a few years later when quarterback Michael Vick burst on the scene, an amazing athlete who was as good of a runner as he was a passer. With Vick electrifying the offense as a redshirt freshman and Foster's famed Lunch Pail Defense paced by fearsome All-American defensive end Corey Moore, the Hokies breezed through an undefeated regular season in 1999, getting to the BCS title game in January 2000 against No. 1 Florida State. Though the Hokies lost to the Seminoles in the Sugar Bowl, they held their own, actually leading FSU 29–28 after three quarters.
Though Beamer thought about leaving for the North Carolina job, actually accepting it after the 2000 season, he changed his mind after flying back to Blacksburg.
"I knew we could win there," Beamer wrote in his autobiography about UNC. "What was most important to my decision-making process was the fact that those football facilities were built on somebody else's blood and sweat. They weren't built from my work. What we had at Virginia Tech at that time, on the other hand, and what we have built for the future, were built largely because of the success we had since 1993."
He stayed at Virginia Tech and helped guide the Hokies through their transition to the ACC in 2004, winning the league in their very first season, a surprising champion that was picked to finish sixth in the preseason.
That 2004 team that went to the Sugar Bowl started an impressive streak of consistency that saw the Hokies win 10 or more games for eight straight seasons. Tech went 84–24 from 2004 to 2011, winning four ACC championships in the Hokies' first seven years in the league.
Beamer won two ACC Coach of the Year awards to go with the three he'd won in the Big East. He guided Tech to five BCS bowls in a span of eight years, which gave him eight major bowl appearances in his time as the Hokies' coach. He dominated the in-state rivalry with Virginia like no one ever before, winning 12 straight to finish his career and 16 of the last 17 matchups with the Cavaliers.
Coaches loved to work for him. Beamer generally stayed hands off and let his assistants do their jobs. He didn't demand around-the-clock hours and wasn't someone who jumped on them at every opportunity. It's why support staff and assistants like Ballein (29 years), Foster (29 years), Bryan Stinespring (26 years), Billy Hite (24 years), and Charley Wiles (20 years) joined his staff and never left.
But Beamer had a far greater impact than that on campus, particularly in the wake of the tragic shooting on April 16, 2007, which claimed 32 lives, the deadliest shooting in U.S. history at that time. Afterward, Beamer met with the parents of some of the victims, trying to offer whatever comfort he could at such a sad time, a small but important piece in helping the campus heal.
"When you walked in and you looked back and you saw the hurt and the pain and the grief in the eyes ... I'll never forget seeing those eyes," Beamer said.
"I went to a Richmond race right after that and somebody said, 'Well, you're probably always going to be remembered for the tragedy that happened at Virginia Tech.' And I said, 'No, I think what we're going to be remembered for is how Virginia Tech reacted to that tragedy and how they came together and got close, cared about each other.' I think that's what we'll really remember about that deal, and that's kind of Virginia Tech right there."
Like all coaches, time caught up to Beamer, whose post–2012 teams struggled to stay above .500, despite occasional stunners like the 35–21 upset of eventual national champion Ohio State at the Horseshoe in 2014.
That team finished the regular season 6–6, however. Beamer had a health scare that year, undergoing throat surgery right after the UVa game for what he'd later reveal was cancer. It prevented him from participating directly in the lead-up to the Military Bowl against Cincinnati. He watched from the press box and — after the Hokies beat the Bearcats 33–17 with Shane Beamer serving as acting coach — danced with his players in the locker room afterward.
In 2015, when Frank Beamer announced his eventual retirement midway through what was shaping up to be another mediocre season, he did it with Virginia Tech in mind.
"I didn't want to let Hokies down," Beamer said. "And that's the hardest part about being average here for the last few years. That's another thing I'm proud of: at one time average was not so bad, but now average is unacceptable, really. And that's a good thing. I'm proud of that. But that's the thing that Tech fans deserve better than – we've been average too long."
The Hokies won two of three down the stretch to get him to his 23rd consecutive bowl game. He finished off the last of his record 238 victories at Virginia Tech with a wild 55–52 win against Tulsa back where it all began at the Independence Bowl.
Since then, he has been a popular figure at Tech in retirement: a daily walker around campus with Ballein. He has been an ambassador for the athletic department, a face of the school's Drive for 25 donor initiative, and a resource for Justin Fuente in the coaching transition.
In January 2018, he was selected for the College Football Hall of Fame, inducted at a ceremony in New York the following December. He was as gracious as always about his inclusion with the sport's greats and was thankful for the opportunity to have coached his alma mater for so long.
"To have stayed at one place, a place I love, for 29 years," Beamer said, "I couldn't be more lucky."CHAPTER 2
Frank Beamer used to chuckle about it later in his career, recalling just how many high school coaches he'd encountered who came to him with the same claim: "We've got the next Michael Vick for you."
As polite as he was, Beamer probably heard them out, knowing full well the truth about Vick: he was a comet who came through Blacksburg, unseen before or since, a flash who changed the way the college game was played and forever altered the perception of Virginia Tech on the national scene. Replicating him was going to be hard, if not impossible.
"He was just a different guy, and I was fortunate to coach him," Beamer said. "He was such a pleasant guy to coach. All that came his way and he never changed. Everybody on our team loved him. He'd do anything you asked him from a coaching standpoint. Never a problem, never in my office for an issue. I can't say enough good things about Michael Vick."
The full story of Vick's life is far more complicated, Shakespearean almost, with his rapid rise from the Newport News projects to college and NFL stardom, his precipitous fall from grace and prison term stemming from dog-fighting charges, and his reconciliation in a post-incarceration life spent making amends for those past misdeeds.
He might not be the most successful player in Virginia Tech History — it's hard to top defensive end Bruce Smith's body of work as a two-time first-team All-American, national award winner, and pro football Hall of Famer — but Vick is without a doubt the Hokies' most recognizable player, having reached a level of fame greater than Smith and influencing a generation of quarterbacks who run it as well as they throw it.
Vick grew up in a rough part of Newport News, a soft-spoken kid who tried to stay away from trouble. He learned the game from his second cousin, Aaron Brooks, who was four years older and would go on to star at Virginia. Soon, Vick was a standout for Tommy Reamon at Warwick High.
Though Ronald Curry was the bigger quarterback star out of the 757 in Vick's high school class, the Hokies were focused on the speedy left-hander from the start, given a heads-up by assistant coach Jim Cavanaugh. Beamer said all the convincing he needed was a quick glance at Vick's game film.
"I needed only three plays to tell that Michael Vick was the most different player that I had ever seen," Beamer wrote in his autobiography. "How quickly he got rid of the ball was amazing. How much zip he put on the ball for his size was amazing. How he ran around and the speed and quickness he had: it was even more amazing. He would run around, and nobody would be able to tackle him."
Virginia Tech ended up getting his services over Syracuse, which wanted to make him the next Donovan McNabb. He'd do a pretty good impersonation of McNabb for the Hokies ... once they let him play.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "100 Things Virginia Tech Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die"
Copyright © 2019 Andy Bitter.
Excerpted by permission of Triumph Books LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1. Frank Beamer,
2. Michael Vick,
3. Bud Foster,
4. Bruce Smith,
5. The 2000 BCS Title Game,
6. "Beamer Ball",
7. Jump to "Enter Sandman",
8. The 1995 Sugar Bowl: Virginia Tech Belongs,
9. Attend a Game at Lane Stadium,
10. The UVa Rivalry,
11. Cornell Brown,
12. Corey Moore,
13. Getting into the Big East,
14. Tyrod Taylor,
15. Visit the April 16 Memorial,
16. The Bowl Streak,
17. The 1999 Season,
18. Getting into the ACC,
19. Justin Fuente,
20. The 2004 ACC Champions,
21. Frank Moseley,
22. The 1995 Season and an Epic UVa Game,
23. Jerry Claiborne,
24. Hunter Carpenter,
25. The 1993 Independence Bowl,
26. The Complicated Legacy of Bill Dooley,
27. Jim Pyne,
28. DeAngelo Hall,
29. Frank Loria,
30. Run out of the Tunnel at Lane Stadium,
31. Carroll Dale,
32. The Lunch Pail,
33. Vince Hall and Xavier Adibi,
34. Billy Hite and Virginia Tech's Lineage of Great Running Backs,
35. John Ballein,
36. Jim Weaver,
37. Thursday Night Games,
38. Catch a Glimpse of Frank Beamer on a Walk (or Just Take a Picture at His Statue),
39. George Preas, Buzz Nutter, and the 1958 NFL Champion Colts,
40. The Fuller Brothers,
42. Whit Babcock,
43. The Day the Yankees Came to Blacksburg,
44. Attend a Basketball Game at Cassell Coliseum,
45. The First Game in 1892 and Early Years of Virginia Tech Football,
46. The Black Diamond Trophy and West Virginia Rivalry,
47. The Edmunds Brothers,
48. Hokie Stone,
49. Duane Brown,
50. Brandon Flowers,
51. Do the Hokie Pokie (Or at Least Be Loud in the Cheer That Replaced It),
52. Bryan Randall,
53. 1986 Peach Bowl,
54. Jake Grove,
55. How Worsham Field Got Its Name,
56. David Wilson,
57. Kam Chancellor,
58. What's a Hokie?,
59. Miracle in Morgantown,
60. Bill Roth,
61. Kevin Jones,
62. Two No. 1 Overall Draft Picks,
63. Dell Curry,
64. 1973 and 1995 NIT Titles,
65. Eugene Chung,
66. Lee Suggs,
67. Maurice DeShazo and Tech's Preference for Mobile Quarterbacks,
68. Buzz Williams,
69. Jerod Evans,
70. Antonio Freeman,
71. The Commonwealth Cup,
72. Mike Gentry and the Evolution of the Hokies' Strength and Conditioning Program,
73. The Night Virginia Tech Ended Miami's Streak,
74. Jim Druckenmiller,
75. The Walk-On Tradition,
76. Mike Johnson,
77. Have a Rail at TOTS,
78. The 2014 Upset of Eventual National Champion Ohio State,
79. André Davis,
80. The Battle at Bristol,
81. Cyrus Lawrence,
82. Bimbo Coles,
83. "College GameDay",
84. Bruce Arians,
85. The Corps of Cadets,
86. Schweickert, Utz, and the 1963 Southern Conference Champions,
87. Chuck Hartman,
88. Visit the Pylons above War Memorial Chapel,
89. Seth Greenberg,
90. Virginia Tech's Evolving Set of Uniforms,
91. Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips,
92. The Hokies Finally Beat Bobby Bowden and Florida State,
93. The No. 25 Jersey,
94. Don Strock and Logan Thomas,
95. Miracle on Dirt,
96. Do the Run in Remembrance,
97. Wayne Ward's Block,
98. Eat a Smoked Turkey Leg at Lane Stadium,
99. The 1947 Sun Bowl Team,
100. Danny Coale Caught the Ball!,