Thursday, September 16, 2010

Still Light at the end of the tunnel?

The following was part of a recent article in the SI mailbag. I agree with him, and more so, hope he's right...

Should Frank Beamer be on the hot seat at Virginia Tech? Ten wins each year and a few conference championships is great, but the program has reached a plateau, and now losing to JMU can only hurt the recruiting efforts in Virginia (which is already in trouble with Mike London taking over at UVa).
-- Chris, Centreville, Va.

It sure feels like the end of an era at Virginia Tech. Is Frank Beamer's situation like Lloyd Carr's in 2007 at Michigan (besides the obvious App State comparison) where the game just passed him by while he refused to adapt? Or is it more like Bobby Bowden at FSU in 2006, where personal loyalty to an offensive coordinator trumps performance?
-- Adam Cruz, Dayton

It's been a rough week for the Hokies. I get that. People are distraught. The season feels like it's over before it started. But I think we can safely assume that no person of reasonable mind or authority in the Virginia Tech administration has suddenly decided that "Ten wins each year and a few conference championships" is no longer good enough and has begun drawing up a severance package for the man who made the school relevant to begin with.

Maybe I'm in the minority, but I don't view the James Madison loss -- as embarrassing as it was -- as a sign of the Hokies' impending destruction. Too often fans view results in a vacuum of Xs and Os, ignoring the human element of the sport. Last Monday, Virginia Tech suffered a crushing last-minute loss to a top five team. You can't tell me the letdown and the short turnaround didn't directly impact the Hokies' performance on Saturday. I'm not saying it excuses the loss. Virginia Tech should never lose to James Madison. But I wouldn't go penciling the Hokies into the EagleBank Bowl, either. My guess is they'll bounce back and will still be in contention for their division heading into a late-November road trip to Miami.

The one reasonable criticism of Beamer (besides his questionable late-game management against Boise) is his undying loyalty to offensive coordinator Bryan Stinespring, whose squads have chronically underperformed. This is a ridiculous stat: Virginia Tech hasn't finished higher than 50th nationally in total offense since 2003. I thought for sure the Hokies were going to turn the corner this year, what with a fourth-year quarterback (Tyrod Taylor) and three talented tailbacks (Ryan Williams, Darren Evans and David Wilson), but it was apparent from the opening minutes of the Boise State game that the Hokies' offensive line is a mess. Maybe they'll still get it turned around, but Tech's offensive staff is long past due for an infusion of new blood.

The Carr comparison is interesting, though not entirely valid. First of all, there had been numerous signs pointing to Carr's impending retirement before the '07 season even began. I've heard no such thing about Beamer. However, Carr might not be the worst model for Beamer to follow. The Michigan team that lost to Appalachian State (and got crushed by Oregon the following week) wound up finishing 6-2 in the Big Ten and beating Florida in a bowl game. As of today, I'm guessing Tech fans would gladly take a similar outcome. And I believe it will happen.

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