NEW YORK — Frank Beamer could have been a footnote.
The longtime Virginia Tech coach was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in a black-tie ceremony Tuesday night at the 61st National Football Foundation annual awards dinner in New York.
He was voted into the Hall of Fame in January on his first year of eligibility, but the Hokies’ former coach didn’t look destined for enshrinement after the Hokies went 2-8-1 in 1992, his sixth season.
“How many people do you think would survive today, 2-8-1 in their sixth year?” Beamer said Tuesday morning. “I’m just glad I didn’t upset anybody in those first five or six years. I was trying to make friends.”
Beamer won 238 games for his alma mater, seven conference championships — three in the Big East and four in the ACC — and reached the 2000 BCS national championship game. He established a bowl streak, now in its 26th straight season, and a double-digit win streak over rival Virginia. His overall 280-143-4 record ranks sixth among FBS coaches.
Former Texas coach Mack Brown, who was recently announced as North Carolina’s new coach, spoke on behalf of the class at the ceremony. Other members of the class were former Michigan defensive back Charles Woodson, former Miami safety Ed Reed and former Georgia Tech wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
As Beamer sat with reporters Tuesday morning, he spoke of the good fortune he experienced during his 44-year career from Tech’s patience to the early days of his career as a graduate assistant at Maryland.
“I’ve always been lucky,” Beamer said. “I’ve known GAs that spent two years here and two years here, can never hook on.”
The fact Beamer got a seventh year at Virginia Tech is equally unlikely.
One of the few tumultuous times of Beamer’s career came as he tried to establish Tech as the championship program he envisioned. With scholarship sanctions in place, Beamer’s teams struggled.
The Hokies had winning seasons in 1989 (6-4-1) and 1990 (6-5), but two years later went 2-8-1. They gave up a lead in the final 5 minutes in five of those losses. Five of the games were decided by 4 or fewer points.
“I’m probably not smart enough to know how much trouble I was in,” Beamer said. “But I never thought that way. But I think (athletics director) Dave Braine understood that we were working with scholarship limitations. I think he understood that we were trying to do things right by our kids, we were trying to graduate our players. We were doing the little things right. And we just needed more time to get this thing done. And thank goodness for Dave Braine.”
While his fellow inductee Mack Brown jumped back into the coaching world, Beamer is content in retirement. He has pangs of regret not being able to get Tech back to the title game, but Beamer says he accomplished what he set out to do.
“I took great pride in whatever how that player came to us, and you had all kinds of different backgrounds, all kinds of different homes, one parent, two parents, grandmother, but however he came that he would leave there a better person,” Beamer said. “More caring, more respectful of other people. And that was kind of my goal in life. And if that was the case, then they were going to be successful or have a good opportunity to be successful. And we had so many guys. I don’t remember the number we had that was drafted in the NFL.
“But we had a lot of guys that became doctors and lawyers and good business people and good educators, so I felt that was kind of the simple answer that we were going to do everything that we can while we’re here to make these people better. And that’s what we worked for.”