November 20, 2008
When Frank Beamer's hall of fame tenure as Virginia Tech's football coach ends, defensive coordinator Bud Foster will be a strong candidate to succeed him.
But should the Hokies designate Foster their big-whistle-in-waiting to prevent a conference rival such as Clemson from swiping him before Beamer retires?
The question careened onto the university's radar Tuesday when Texas appointed defensive coordinator Will Muschamp to replace head coach Mack Brown, though the 57-year-old Brown has eight seasons remaining on his contract and said, "I think I have a lot of good years left."
Beamer, 62, is contracted through the 2012 season. In public, he has shown no inclination toward retirement.
Unless Beamer's private stance is otherwise, the notion of guaranteeing Foster the gig now seems ill-advised.
Virginia Tech athletic director Jim Weaver agrees.
"I've never seen or heard of anything like that," he said Wednesday of Texas' pre-emptive strike. "I just can't imagine."
Yes, Foster is among the college game's most accomplished assistant coaches — his defenses are the program's foundation. And yes, he's worked under Beamer since 1981, starting at Murray State and moving to Virginia Tech in 1987.
Moreover, he has emerged as a serious head-coaching candidate at Clemson, an ACC opponent the Hokies recruit against annually — the teams don't play again until 2011.
But unlike Clemson, Virginia Tech does not have a vacancy in the corner office, and, most important, has not been screening myriad candidates. Don't national-caliber programs such as Virginia Tech owe as much to players, donors and fans?
In short, allow Foster to earn the position during a rigorous search that coincides with Beamer's exit.
Texas turned such logic on its head Tuesday. With the Longhorns contending for a second national title under Brown, and with Brown's apparent blessing, university officials handed what is arguably college football's premier job to a 37-year-old assistant with no head-coaching experience.
To an outsider, it's preposterous. This is Muschamp's first season at Texas, and given the Longhorns' resources, recruiting base and tradition, not to mention Austin's quality of life, the position would have attracted a who's who of candidates.
Like Foster, Muschamp was on Clemson's short list. Tennessee's and Washington's too, according to media in those states.
Which, if I'm Virginia Tech or Texas, is fine. Allow your valued assistant to navigate head coaching's management migraines elsewhere and then bring him home when he's more seasoned and the time is right.
"If Bud gets offered the Clemson job, he's got to take it," Weaver said. "If you can get your first head-coaching job in one of the six (Bowl Championship Series) conferences, and at a school with Clemson's tradition, that's a no-brainer to me."
Regardless, Weaver's first phone call Wednesday was to Texas athletic director DeLoss Dodds. The two exchanged voicemails, but Weaver wants to know how the Muschamp deal evolved and what escape clauses, if any, are included.
Weaver also plans to consult Beamer, to confirm his belief that Beamer intends to coach at least through 2012.
"He's the bell cow, the lead horse," Weaver said.
"He deserves to have his thoughts and inputs heard."
No head coach is more loyal to, or protective of, his assistants than Beamer, occasionally to a fault. But on this matter he's treading carefully.
On Tuesday's Hokie Hotline radio show — props to host Bill Roth for not ducking issues — and again Wednesday during the ACC's weekly news conference, Beamer raised legitimate concerns about timing and lines of authority.
What if the program declines or skids into a ditch in the lengthy transition? And if the anointed one gets antsy? Does he undermine the boss? Start plotting a jailbreak or palace coup?
Finally, what of the other assistants? To whom are they beholden, the current or future head coach?
A Team of Rivals might have worked for Lincoln's Cabinet, but it will not do for a 21st-century coaching staff.
Such issues are minimized at Florida State, where Jimbo Fisher's promotion to replace 79-year-old Bobby Bowden figures to occur sooner rather than later. And at Purdue, where Danny Hope agreed to a one-year transition before succeeding Joe Tiller after this season. Even with the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, who prior to this season appointed Jim Mora to follow Mike Holmgren in 2009.
"Certainly Bud has the qualifications," Beamer said Wednesday.
"He's done a great job here at Virginia Tech, no doubt about that. ... (But) things change in college football quickly. Are there buyouts? How's the whole thing work?"
Beamer's remarks are instructive. Certainly he'd prefer to turn the program over to a protégé, and doing so in advance would spare the university the potential search circus — see Michigan and Rich Rodriguez, Alabama and Nick Saban.
But not this far in advance.
"I think there's some points for it and there's some points against it," Beamer said.
Far more against.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime.