The Virginia Tech athletic department could choose no better person to head up all football operations than associate athletics director for football operations Dr. John Ballein, whose rich history with the university makes him the perfect person for the job. Ballein, who received his doctorate of education from Virginia Tech in 2006 and worked on Coach Frank Beamer’s first Virginia Tech staff in 1987 as a graduate assistant coach, handles all administrative and operational duties dealing with the football program and is considered Coach Beamer’s right-hand man.
After a year as the running backs coach at Western Kentucky University in 1988, Ballein returned to Tech as recruiting coordinator and has been with the Hokies ever since. He was promoted to assistant director of athletics for football operations in 1996 and, in 2000, received another promotion to his current position for his excellent work throughout the years with Tech football.
A native of Bentleyville, Pa., Ballein was a linebacker at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he graduated with a degree in health and physical education in 1983. He later earned his master’s in education from Old Dominion University in 1987. In 1983-84, Ballein served as a teacher and a football coach at Woodrow Wilson High School in Portsmouth, Va., and then at Western Branch High in Chesapeake, Va., in 1985-86.
What makes Ballein so important is the rapport he has with all the players. His office, adjacent to Coach Beamer’s, is a preferred hangout for the players, and he is one of the most beloved and respected members of the staff.
“At Virginia Tech, Coach Beamer talks a lot about family,” former Hokie standout and San Diego Chargers wide receiver Eddie Royal said. “One of the main reasons that the program truly feels like family is John Ballein. I don’t know how he does it, but he doesn’t miss a thing. If you’ve messed up, he’s the first person there to help you get back on track. If you’ve done something special, he’s the first person there to shake your hand and tell you great job. Now that I’m away from the program, he’s the person who checks in to make sure I’m doing okay. The reason he’s so popular with all the players is because you can tell he’s genuine. He really cares about us, and that makes it easy to really care about him.”
Ballein is married to the former Stephanie Green, a Hokie basketball player in her undergraduate days. They have two daughters, Jordan Gray, 16, and Jalyn Ann, 14.