Tearful Frank Beamer: Virginia Tech fan discord helped make decision to retire after season

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BLACKSBURG, Virginia — An emotional Frank Beamer wanted everyone to know that his health wasn't the reason he has decided to retire.

The longtime Virginia Tech coach said Monday that he didn't want Virginia Tech's fan base to be divided. In the midst of his fourth consecutive mediocre season, and with questions swirling about his health and his future, Beamer decided it was time to walk away.

"I've always said I think I'll know when it's time, and I think it's time," Beamer said, wiping away tears numerous times in a football room filled with his team, coaching staff, Virginia Tech administrators and boosters.

"You know, there's been some difference of opinion out there. Any time you're in the public life, there's going to be difference of opinion. I understand that, but the last thing I want is for Hokies to be divided," the 69-year-old Beamer said. "I want everybody to be in the same direction and I think it's right in that regard."

Beamer said while throat surgery last December has cut into his energy level some, his health was no factor in his decision.

"My health is good and thankful for that, and full speed ahead," he said.

Beamer will coach at least three more games in his 29th season at his alma mater, and if the Hokies (4-5) win at least two of them, he'll lead them to a postseason game for an NCAA-leading 23rd consecutive season.

Beamer told his wife, Cheryl, and son Shane, a Hokies assistant coach, of his decision on Friday, before Virginia Tech left for Boston. The Hokies beat Boston College 26-10 on Saturday, and Beamer told the team of his plan on Sunday.

"That wasn't as easy time," he said, wiping tears away again.

It was one, fullback Sam Rogers said, that added great purpose to the remainder of the season.

"I'm glad if he was going to retire this year he did announce it this week so we could celebrate him the right way and honor him the right way," the former walk-on said. "The biggest thing is we've got to come out and put every ounce of energy and passion we have for him. It's not about us anymore. It's definitely about him."

The Hokies, who have this weekend off, play at Georgia Tech next Thursday night, at home against North Carolina the following Saturday and finish the regular season at Virginia, a team they have beaten 11 straight times.

Twice in the past three seasons, the Hokies have had to win their traditional finale against Virginia to qualify for a bowl game, a stretch that followed eight consecutive years with at least 10 victories.

"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, and 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."

Beamer said he will not be part of the process to choose his successor.

Virginia Tech athletic director Whit Babcock said Sunday he would not comment on the search until after the season.

Beamer heaped praise on the university presidents, athletic directors, coaches and players that have been part of his success, and cited the Hokies' 28-10 victory against Texas in the Sugar Bowl as a "game-changer."

"People saw us differently after that game," he said.

Beamer is the career leader among active major college coaches with 277 victories.

"I've always admired him as a coach but also as the kind of professional character he always carries himself with, the way he treats other people," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "... I think he's definitely one of the great coaches of this era."

Virginia Tech has played in a total of eight BCS bowl games, including the national championship in 1999 when Michael Vick led the second-ranked Hokies back to the Sugar Bowl. They were beaten 46-29 by top-ranked Florida State.

Beamer also led the Hokies to seven conference titles, and during his tenure, facilities have been vastly upgraded. Lane Stadium was expanded to its current capacity of 65,632, there is a new locker room for the football team and this year the program opened an indoor practice facility.

His wife, Cheryl, said without a football team to coach she isn't sure what retirement will mean on daily basis.

"He doesn't do yard work. He doesn't cook," she said, laughing, "so not sure how that's going to go."

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