December 23, 2015
Character and values led Baughman to hire Beamer
Twenty-nine years ago today, former Tech AD Dutch Baughman announced the hiring of Frank Beamer as the football coach, and changed the athletics department and university forever

By Jimmy Robertson

Retiring Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer put his team through one final practice in Blacksburg this morning – his final practice on campus – before the travel party loaded up and headed off to Shreveport, Louisiana for the Independence Bowl.

Hokie Nation would do well to remember this date for an additional reason. On this day in 1986, Beamer was named the football coach here at Tech.

The symmetry could not be more fitting.

A day after telling the world that he planned on retiring at the conclusion of the season, Beamer called the man responsible for bringing him to Blacksburg two days before Christmas in 1986 – Dale “Dutch” Baughman. Beamer thanked Baughman, and he explained his reasoning for retiring.

Beamer’s call came as no surprise to those who know him – the man who never forgot his roots, his manners and those who afforded him with opportunities.

“We had the nicest conversation about our friendship and how well he’s done and what occurred 29 years ago,” Baughman said recently via phone from his home in Southlake, Texas. “He is a first-rate person, and that was the convincing element during our initial interview. It’s certainly been the consistent character trait for all the years I’ve known him. It was a great moment for us to share and kind of him to reach out.”

The tenure of Dutch Baughman as the athletics director of Virginia Tech lasted approximately six months, but his decision to hire Beamer changed not only a football program and an athletics department, but also the university.

Baughman himself got the AD job at Tech on Dec. 11, 1986, replacing outgoing AD and football coach Bill Dooley, who weeks later led the Hokies to a Peach Bowl win. Dooley resigned in what many remember as a tumultuous time that involved NCAA violations. Baughman, who had been working for the Southwest Conference, knew he was going to be getting the job at Tech and knew he needed to hire a football coach. So he began the process even before he arrived on campus.

Baughman went after Bobby Ross, who had resigned as the head coach at Maryland following that season. Baughman met Ross in Richmond to discuss the Tech job, but Ross thought it too soon to jump back into coaching.

Baughman also had Beamer, the coach at Murray State at the time, on his radar. Yet the conversation with Ross immediately pointed Baughman toward Beamer’s direction.

“I remember asking Bobby the question, ‘If you were to be the candidate for the new head coach, tell me about your staff,’” Baughman said. “The first thing he said he’d do was hire an assistant head coach. Back then, that was not really a known or popular position, but he was so sure of it. I asked him, ‘Well, do you have someone in mind?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, it would be Frank Beamer.’

“In having heard Frank’s name in several other places, I knew that he was capable, meeting all the elements of the profile. But when I heard his name mentioned by Bobby Ross, that validated a lot of the research I had done and so forth.”

Baughman contacted Beamer and later met Beamer and his wife, Cheryl, at a hotel in Nashville, Tennessee. The three of them chatted for a while, and then Cheryl excused herself to allow the two gentlemen to talk about the job.

What technically was supposed to be an interview turned into a conversation – one that sold Baughman. The two briefly talked about football, but mostly talked about values and handling certain scenarios, and Baughman left impressed with Beamer’s responses.

Baughman certainly put an emphasis on toughness, discipline and football knowledge, having once served as a graduate assistant football coach under legendary Woody Hayes at Ohio State – a man known for such traits. But Baughman, a former Marine, felt values such as integrity and character were more important.

“What I had learned at that point in my career was that you hire on personal character,” Baughman said. “Every time, you hire on personal character. One of the main reasons is that you’re in a position to hire a person that’s going to have incredible influence over the lives of student-athletes first and foremost, and then there’s coaching staff and parents and faculty and staff and so on.

“The personal character criteria was the most important, and that was the decision maker. That made the difference. After the meeting in Nashville, there was no doubt in my mind that this was the man that we wanted.”

Unfortunately, Baughman never witnessed Beamer coach a game as the AD at Virginia Tech. He resigned six months later following Beamer’s Christmas hiring after the university administration failed to inform him during his interview that the Hokies’ basketball program also was being investigated by the NCAA.

But Baughman kept in close contact with Beamer over the years, and he made several trips to Blacksburg to take in games. He never announced his arrival and always stayed in the background, preferring to be respectful of the current ADs at the time – Dave Braine, Jim Weaver and now Whit Babcock.

Baughman later served as the AD at Oregon State and then became the executive direct of the Division I-A Athletics Directions Association, a post he held for nearly 20 years before retiring this past January. Each year, he re-lived the story of hiring Beamer, as both future ADs and current ADs wanted advice on how to an eventual legend.

“It seemed that every year, as the team would have success and go to a bowl game, I don’t know how many years went by where someone would call me and say, ‘Tell me the story about when you hired Frank,’” Baughman said. “Well, the story had been told so many times, but it was very nice not to be with Frank on a daily basis and yet still be connected and share in that excitement and joy. Every time I would re-live that experience, it was not only a tribute to Frank and the Hokies, but it also made me feel real good, too.”

Baughman was unable to attend Beamer’s final home game at Lane Stadium, but hopes to make it back to town for any future tributes to the legendary coach. As the years clicked along, he expected Beamer’s retirement to be imminent.

But Beamer’s decision left Baughman feeling the way many in Hokie Nation feel – disappointed and sad, yet thankful that the coach gets to leave on his terms.

“I feel sadness to step away from something I’ve been dedicated to for 45 years or whatever it is, and now to see Frank retire at the same time, that’s part of the empathy I have with the decision that he and Cheryl made and the announcement and the thoughts he has going forward,” Baughman said. “There is a happiness. There is an enormous congratulations for being able to sustain 29 years, but there is also a sadness because there is a dire need for people in that position, not only at Virginia Tech, but all over the country, that will continue to influence the lives of student-athletes the way Frank did.”

Beamer’s final game as the coach will come on Saturday against Tulsa. The kickoff is slated for 5:45 p.m. (EST).

New coach Justin Fuente’s tenure begins in earnest at that point. He’ll be attempting to replace a legend in Beamer, one whose impact will never be forgotten.

For updates on Virginia Tech football, follow the Hokies on Twitter and on Instagram @vthokiefootball Instagram

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