Beamer discusses WVU game, as Hokies continue to prepare for season opener

By Jimmy Robertson

BLACKSBURG – Two days after being named Virginia Tech’s honorary captain for the season-opening game against West Virginia, former Hokie head football coach Frank Beamer made an appearance at Wednesday’s news conference and talked mostly on things pertaining to the Tech-West Virginia rivalry.

Beamer, who today serves as the spokesperson for Tech's "Drive for 25" initiative, expressed his honor at being chosen to serve as the captain, and he also expressed gratitude at being a part of the pregame ceremony with former West Virginia coach Don Nehlen. As most know, Beamer and Nehlen were – and remain – good friends despite coaching against each other in what became a bitter rivalry between the two fan bases.

(For more information on the Drive for 25, please click here.)

“We always got along great. Had a lot of respect for him,” Beamer said. “Thought he did a great job there. Sometimes our fans didn’t get so along well, but I think even though with that, there’s a lot of respect from our fans for their program and their fans the same. It goes back the other way.”

Beamer reminisced on some of the games between the two schools. Of course, everyone, including Beamer, remembers the 1999 game in which Michael Vick made a long run to set up Shayne Graham’s game-winning kick as time expired to keep the Hokies’ national championships hopes alive – Tech subsequently went undefeated during the 1999 regular season and played Florida State for the national title.

Also, in 1989, Beamer got his first victory over a ranked team when Tech beat West Virginia 12-10 in Morgantown. Two years later, the Hokies stopped West Virginia at the 1 to preserve a 20-14 win in Morgantown.

Those games, though, came when both teams were members of the BIG EAST. Conference re-alignment and differences in scheduling philosophies forced the cancellation for the series until this season. Tech and West Virginia also face each other in 2021 and 2022.

Count Beamer among those happy to see the two schools playing again.

“I think it’s a game that needs to be played as often as possible because you’re the next state over and we both have great fan bases,” Beamer said. “They’re going to fill our stadium. We’re going to fill their stadium. There are so many positives about playing this game that I’m glad to see it back on the schedule and hope it can come back as often as it can fit into both schools’ schedules.”

Here are some more tidbits from Wednesday’s news conference:

• Beamer has been quite busy this summer for a retired man, as he took two separate trips out West to promote the athletics department’s “Drive for 25” initiative – a program designed to increase membership into the Hokie Club to 25,000 members. Beamer serves as the spokesperson and attended events in San Francisco and Dallas in an attempt to seek new members and ultimately raise money for athletics scholarships.

“There’s no question in my mind that we are going to reach that,” Beamer said. “I was out in California recently and went to Dallas. Great to have some meetings there. There’s just a lot of excitement about Virginia Tech and where it’s going and what the school in general is doing.

“I’m going to do all I can to help us get to that 25,000, but we’re counting on our fans to jump in there and everybody kinda join arms and get this thing done. We need it. Our athletic department certainly needs it.”

• Beamer joked that he has read several preseason football magazines for the first time to prepare for his role as a member of the College Football Playoff Selection Committee. He attended a meeting in Colorado Springs, Colorado in early August

“There’s a lot to this thing,” Beamer said. “When you think about it, picking the final four teams and the financial part of it to the universities, recognition and having a chance to win a national championship. There needs to be a lot to it, but it’s very detailed.

“Halfway through the year, we go to Dallas every Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning and meet. I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to getting to know people on the committee a lot better … It’s different people and working with that group to get to the final four teams … I think it’s going to be interesting.”

• Current Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente already has started educating his players on the Tech-West Virginia rivalry – the two schools haven’t met since 2005. Earlier Wednesday, defensive coordinator Bud Foster, defensive line coach Charley Wiles and strength and conditioning assistant Ryan Shuman talked to the team about the rivalry to give it some perspective.

“You know, ultimately our approach to every game remains the same in terms of thinking about our preparation and our emotion and our accountability to each other,” Fuente said. “This is a little bit different in terms of I think we do need to take an additional step just to kind of paint the picture of what its like when you’re playing a game like this that has been dormant for a little while.”

• Fuente said that he and his staff are close to rounding out a depth chart in advance of the season opener against West Virginia.

“I would say that, for special teams, we have a depth chart,” he said. “That could still change based on this next week of work, but we’ll start preparing to move that way.

“Offensively and defensively, we have an idea. There are a few spots that I’m still not sure who the first person to trot out there will be, but by and large, I’d say a large portion of it is filling out.”

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