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No Joy In Blacksburg

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After two consecutive losses the Hokies are bottoming out and the future of the Tech program is in question.

Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

I always at least attempt to curb my bias when writing about the Hokies. I want them to do well, but it's useful to stay as neutral as possible.

Still, it's hard not to have a purely emotional fan reaction when asked about the old football coach.

I love Frank Beamer.

He constructed a winning program in the face of some tall odds and generally did the right things along the way. He's been the driving force behind the most important era of Virginia Tech athletics filled with major expansion in financial resources and seismic shifts in conference affiliation.

He's done so many positive things, and that influence makes the recent results on the field so baffling and painful.

We're not used to this. Sure we've been spoiled with consistent winning, but it's shocking to become mediocre in such a hurry.

Beamer and Scot Loeffler both seem genuinely perplexed as the same issues perpetuate on offense. No one is happy. No one has answers. The season has ground to a halt.

The whispers have turned to audible grumbles. Tech fans know a change is on the horizon and frustration leads them to want it now.

I don't know if that would be smart or not, but I know it will be extremely difficult.

Getting rid of Frank Beamer will be like firing Grandpa.

Father: "Listen Dad, you know I love you. Everyone does. But we feel like we have to make a change."

Grandpa: "What do you mean?"

Father: "We're going for a change in leadership. You're grandchildren have been clamoring for the move for a while now."

Grandpa: "But I built this family!"

Father: "And we're all very grateful...but the family unit is stagnating. You knew this had to happen sometime."

Of course in real life it will be Whit Babcock who has the conversation. He makes the decision and it's an unpleasant one.

Transitioning from a legend to a new coach is rarely pretty. In recent years such illustrious programs as Florida State, Penn State, Tennessee and Nebraska moved on from legendary coaches to new regimes.

Both Nebraska and Tennessee are on their third head coaches while Penn State is on number two. Only Florida State—a program that had in place the always controversial "coach in waiting" deal with Jimbo Fisher—quickly turned their transition around into real success last season.

We see great players move on, but the coach is the one constant in a successful program.

Edging Beamer out the door is both exciting and scary. We don't know what kind of person will come on board. No matter who it is, things will be different and they might not be easier.

A change in leadership doesn't mean Tech will flourish right away. There could be just as much of a struggle in Blacksburg with different coaches.

This year's team may struggle to make a bowl game, but next season looks like a strong collection of talent. Wait 'til next year? Have we become the Cubs?

Maybe.

The conversation about Beamer has to happen, but you have to weigh the cost of such a move. Frank is family and he deserves to go out with respect, but how long can Tech wait for the results to turn around?

Going back to the schools I mentioned earlier, let's look at what happened after their legendary coaches departed.

Nebraska went with longtime assistant coach Frank Solich to replace Tom Osborne. Solich won 58 games in his first six seasons but it was deemed insufficient. They made the mistake of trying to get away from option football by hiring Bill Callahan from the Oakland Raiders. They recovered finally with the hiring of Bo Pellini more than 10 years after Osborne's retirement.

Tennessee had a year of Lane Kiffin followed by the dismal tenure of Derek Dooley. Butch Jones appears to have the program shifted back toward positive results five years after Phil Fulmer retired.

Penn State had a unique set of circumstances that led a solid replacement for Joe Paterno in Bill O'Brien to leave for the NFL, replaced by the hot coach of the moment James Franklin.

Florida State won the national championship last season and is 52-10 in the fifth season under Jimbo Fisher. This move has worked out, but it was messy easing Bobby Bowden out the door while the head coach in waiting lurked.

Based on these examples it's clear that the endeavor Tech will attempt in the post-Beamer era will not be easy. It's something to keep in mind for those eager to move on. The challenges will be different without the stability we've known for so long and there are many potential paths for Hokie football.

Which road we choose and how fast will travel down it remains to be seen.